Traditional English, German, and French Furniture


What is Traditional Furniture?


 Traditional furniture depends on who you are asking in what country.  If you asked the common person, they would probably say that traditional furniture is dependent on where you grew up, your perceptions of “traditional,” and that bit of nostalgia that you feel when you see your grandmother’s country worn furniture that she’s had seemingly forever. Traditional furniture will last throughout the trendiest of d├ęcor fads and a good piece of furniture is handcrafted. 

With trends, something always comes back into fashion and this is why so many people want the look of traditional furniture back in their living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.  “Traditional” emits thoughts of well-made, well-established furniture that will last throughout a life time and possibly beyond.


So let’s look at some furniture from three different countries.  England, Germany, and France; no doubt three of the most influential countries that have pioneered traditional European furniture and continue to churn out new reproductions.   All three countries have been influenced by each other’s styles and a blending of techniques is found in all categories of the furniture, however, there are distinct qualities that show a buyer or collector that a style is traditionally English, German, or French.



England


The Golden Era of English Furniture dates back to the late 17th to early 18th century where Mahogany timbers shipped over from the West Indies preferred wood for the solid wood furniture that was made in this era; however, Walnut was still a popular choice, but nearly always second choice.  English furniture was pioneered by the likes of Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Sheraton. It is their designs that today have become synonymous with traditional furniture in England.

Their selection of materials, methods of production, and high quality manufacturing ensure that the dark Mahogany timbers were painstakingly hand carved and well-built.  Although designed to be solid, there were very few square edges; preferring the delicate curvature of table and chair legs or intricately detailed chair backs to offer that extra grandeur that made this the style of choice for the upper class.


English furniture appears to be more refined than French furniture, but less robust than German furniture.  Fast forward 200 hundred years and these styles are still in place. It may get replaced every few years by contemporary, minimal details with square edges, but no matter how old it gets, it is still timeless.



Charlesbarr.com


Charlesbarr.com
Charlesbarr.com


Germany



German furniture is often an amalgam of styles from different countries depending on the time period.  Categorizing German furniture is a bit harder than categorizing traditional English and French furniture. What can be said is that traditional German furniture is sturdy and robust.  Often used were woods like Walnut, Mahogany, Fruitwood, or any of the variety of woods that are plentiful in Germany.

 While earlier influences on German furniture were in the French style, the typical style that is now associated with German furniture is generally bigger and less ornate.  For example, large “schranks” painted with country scenes or folk art are dead giveaways for German furniture from Bavaria.  Tables, dressers, and trunks, are heavy and evoke straight lines of the Biedermeier period.

Popular German furniture makers of the time were Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Abraham and his son David Roentgen who displayed both earlier German and later German styles, and a little more recently, Walter Gropius and Richard Neutra.

Today, if one looks at Pennsylvania Dutch furniture, though an American style associated with the Amish community, it is directly influenced by Germany and continues the tradition of sturdy, well-made furniture.




Bierdmeier (elitechoice.org)
Bavarian Schrank (bavarianfurniture.ca)



France


There is no mistake; traditional French furniture is probably the easiest to define or spot at an antique or flea market.  The curving, graceful lines of their settees, headboards, and armoires are designs that people identify as unequivocally French.  Many of these styles were associated with high culture and status in France.

When I think of French furniture it conjures images of furniture from the Louis periods; Louis XIV (Baroque), Louis XV (Rococo), and Louis XVI (Neo Classical), with Rococo style being the most grandiose and extravagant of them all.  Rococo designs were asymmetrical and curvy, often with a cabriole leg and gilding over wood.  

Pioneer furniture designers of these periods were Jean Berain, Jean Francois Oeben (and it is worth noting that Thomas Chippendale had a great influence on Rococo interior), and Jacob Georges.  Woods that were often used were Walnut, Mahogany, Maple, and Pine.

Many people, not just the serious collector, are now captivated by what is essentially painted furniture in the style of “Shabby Chic.”  This is a new type of interior design that has only been established from the 1990’s on.  The movement is interesting because it is said to have begun in Britain, but much of the painted furniture is in the French style with a diluted and pale pallet of pastel colors.  Followers of this style don’t just paint antiques, they also paint distressed or even new furniture to either make new items look old or old items look new again.

Rococo (galerieversailles.com)


Shabby Chic (homedit.com)




What is your favorite style?



Remember, England, Germany, and France have often borrowed each other’s styles and the furniture style as a result is dependent on the time period that is being visited.  However, we can pick out distinct characteristics of each country that define their own unique style.  Many genuine period antiques are either in museums or are too expensive for the average collector, however, there are many revival and reproduction pieces that are beautiful in their own right and can satisfy an avid collector to general hobbyist. 

When it comes to traditional English, German, or French furniture, what is your favorite type?  Or do you prefer the more modern spinoff styles that have been influenced by England, Germany, and France?



Written by Brittany Ruth of TheRococoRoamer.blogspot.com 





*Contributions: Michael Price (England section)

**Sources: Forrest, Tim. The Bulfinch anatomy of antique furniture: an illustrated guide to identifying period, detail, and design. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. Print.






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Antique Finds

There are so many good places to go antiquing and to flea markets in Europe.  So many hidden gems that are a lot more valuable then say, your typical flea market or antique store in the States.  Mainly because Europe has been around a lot longer.  So each trip to a new antique store is like a blast from the past or to another time period.  Surprisingly, Germany has a lot of French inspired antiques as well.

One of my recent hunts took me to a shop in Amberg, Germany.  This is one of my favorite shops due to the decent prices and variety of stuff.  This isn't one of your typical shops that is going to triple the price of their antiques to tourists.  It's a shop with lots of variety with a lot of dusty corners and space to fill.  They are also interested in making a sale, and not necessarily charging you "retail value".  This is great for me as I'm not looking to spend an arm and a leg to find old things to decorate with.  

One of the items that I had found was a gold painted wooden mirror that I had been eyeing on previous visits. They had a few different ones there but my eyes kept going to this one as it was the most ornate and it is in the Rococo style!



As you can see, I haven't found the perfect place for this yet.  But it may just end up in my living room. This mirror was made in about 1940-1950, so not technically antique yet, but vintage.  I absolutely love it!

The next item I found was a Nauman sewing case to put all your sewing essentials in.  The reason I bought this is because it goes with my Nauman sewing machine that I had bought at a flea market a few months earlier.  


It's made out of tin, I assume, and I think the image on the back may be the factory in Dresden where it was made.  I saw this exact same kit on ebay in terrible condition for $275!  Still, another one posted was going for $220.   Mine is in considerably better condition and what did I pay for it?  I paid 1 Euro!

The company Seidel & Nauman began making sewing machines in Dresden, Germany, in 1872.  

This Nauman sewing machine below is one that I found (that goes with the tin) at a Flohmarkt (Flea Market) in Neumarkt, Germany.  It is in decent condition and fully functional.  The detail picture shows the sewing needles and materials that came with it in the wooden slide.  This sewing machine was probably made around the turn of the century.


I've found that antique sewing machines are fairly common and there are various brands that were popular in Europe as well as the States.  I had the opportunity to visit the Singer Castle in Alexandria Bay, NY, to see the Singer dynasty in all its glory.

Though these sewing machines are pretty common, people like to buy them so they usually sell.  I'd say one of these in really good condition could sell anywhere from $50-$300.  I only paid 25 Euro for this one!

The last item that I found at one of my favorite spots in Amberg was an old pic nic basket.  Now, I have no idea how old this is and I am pretty sure it's not even retro, but I really liked the blue color and the floral motif.  Basically I just wanted it for pic nics, plus, I only paid 5 Euro for it!


I'm always on the lookout for a new shop to visit in a little town somewhere in the middle of NOWHERE!


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Spring Clutches

So I finally had a little time to sew for the first time since I moved to Germany. I made three clutches.  All with European fabrics.  I found this little fabric store in Parsberg, Germany, that I absolutely love.  They have the prettiest fabrics!  Happy Spring!




Prague, Czech Republic

I've heard lots of things about the Czech Republic.  Some of them were negative, to be vague, but a lot of things I've heard were positive, like Prague is a beautiful city to visit.  The only way I would know would be to find out for myself.  I wanted to travel of course for my birthday weekend.  With Prague being only a two and half hour drive from where I live, It was high on my list of places to visit. The decision to drive there was pretty easy.  The only thing that we needed was a vignette which you could buy at the border which cost 18 Euro for a ten day minimum pass.  The drive wasn't bad at all.  We made sure to get a hotel that had parking, because I had heard the parking situation was difficult.  I'm glad we did because although, driving in the city wasn't crazy, we did have to pay a fine for driving in a pedestrian zone and were also informed that we could not park anywhere behind a blue line as those were for the locals.  The police were very nice about it though.  And very nice when they told us we had to pay 1000 Koruna on the spot.

We stayed at the Praha Palace Hotel which was right near The State Opera House and Wenceslas Square.  It was a great location and parking was 25 Euro a night to park in their underground parking lot.  This was a very nice five star hotel and I found a great discount for 129 Euro on Priceline.  The hotel had a gourmet dining facility, bar, and bathrooms that played classical music.  The rooms were very nice also, as was the staff, who even helped us book some of our events.  I would definitely stay at this hotel again.  Here is the hotel link.



In Prague, they use the Koruna or Krone.  You can go to any ATM and pull out money from your debit card in Koruna.  Basically, 2000 Koruna is the equivalent of $100.  Exchanging my money back into Dollars or Euros was also easy as there was an exchange near our hotel, and contrary to people saying you get ripped off, they did not charge us a fee to exchange our money.  

The first thing my husband and I went to see was the Astronomical Clock.  The clock was installed in 1410 and is housed in a very beautiful building.  Once we saw that there were people at the top, we quickly bought tickets and ascended the tower.  





The view from the top was great.  You could see almost all of the city.  But Prague is big and there are so many areas that needed to be sought out on foot.  You need more than just a weekend to see all of the great things there.  In the following picture you can see the Prague Castle which is the largest Gothic church in Europe.  Unfortunately my camera died when we actually walked from the Clock to the Castle so this is as close a picture as it gets.  I will definitely have to try again next time we go to Prague and yes, there will be a next time.  The Castle/Church is known to hold the Bohemian Crown Jewels.  Whatever that means?  I was impressed with how beautiful the buildings were.






A view from above of the Easter Market.



The Tyn Church is directly across from the Astronomical Clock.  Another great example of Gothic architecture.  This church holds the tomb of famed Danish Astronomer, Tycho Brahe.  It also holds the worlds oldest pipe organ.  





We were fortunate enough to be in Prague during the Easter Market.  This was similar to some of the Christmas Markets but way more laid back.  I love this picture below because it just shows how some of the trees were decorated for Easter and some nice buildings in the background.  At the Easter Market, they sold a lot of handmade wooden items and knick knacks.  They also sold various food stuffs including some great local cheese, haluski, marzipan, and these pastries called Trdelniks (I remember the name by calling them turtlenecks).  These are rolled dough with cinnamon and sugar.  (I did NOT take the picture of the Trdelnicks).   Another thing to keep an eye out for in Prague is the crystal.  Prague is known for its Bohemian crystal and every souvenir shop had copious amounts of glasses, perfume bottles, and various other crystal wares to choose from.






Later that night I wanted to see an opera.  Luckily, our hotel was only a few blocks away from the the Prague State Opera.  Prague is known for having cheap tickets for operas, ballets, dramas, and circus'.  I wanted to take advantage of this and how many people can say they've been to a genuine opera?  We booked tickets about 5 hours before the show started and we were able to get tickets for Nabucco, which is an Italian opera by Verdi composed in 1841 about the story of the Jews.  There are romantic storylines as well.  For me, just hearing the opera and appreciating that type of vocal range was enough. I was very interested during the first two acts, but after intermission. the story started to die down and I could look to my left and see Brandon snoring in his seat.  

The opera had subtitles in Czech and English.  We had balcony seats which were no good because we were behind a row of people already taking up the front of the balcony.  Nevertheless, I still would like to see a ballet or drama next time.  Here are the two pictures I took from the balcony. The inside of the Theater in Baroque design with a grand chandelier.  The picture of the opera house is blurry but I wanted to show the inside and how nice it was.  If you are wanting to book an opera or the like, this is a very helpful blog: http://www.eurocheapo.com/blog/prague-booking-a-really-cheap-seat-at-the-opera-or-ballet.html.



The next day we spent a small amount of time in the Jewish Quarter and I had the chance to go to a few antique shops that were very expensive. These are for rich collectors, not hobbyists like myself.  There were also some very high end stores like Chanel and Gucci in this area.  We decided to walk through The Old Town and past The Charles Bridge, which is an attraction itself, to get to the Prague Castle.  The Charles Bridge is very important as it connected The Old Town and The Prague Castle crossing the Vitava River.  Constructed in 1351, it was the only way to cross the river for centuries to come.  The bridge itself is very eerie and I could imagine especially at night because of the parallel row of gothic and religious statues that line the bridge.  There are even haunted night tours that will take you through the old town and across the bridge.  During the day, the bridge is filled with vendors and street performers.

View of the Castle and bridge parallel to The Charles Bridge.


                                                                    The Charles Bridge!


We will go to Prague again.  It's so close we can't help but make a few more trips.  I want to go to the Town of Kutna Hora which is only an hour from Prague and the place of the Sedlec Ossuary, or "the bone church."  (Look it up, you won't be disappointed!)  Also, I'd like to go to Karlovy Vary which is another beautiful town in Czech and known for its spas.

Favorite thing in Prague:  The Astronomical Clock.  Seeing the view from the top was worth it and we got to see the city from above.  Also, that general area was very nice, especially with the Easter Market going on.

I completely forgot to mention that we went to "The Sex Machines Museum."  This was a three floor museum with info, photos, and um apparatuses.  Why we thought this was a good idea, I don't know, but it wasn't.  It was kind of gross, especially the top floor... But we had some Koruna to blow through and Prague was particularly cold this weekend so we ducked into an alley and found this museum.  It was nevertheless interesting.

I also wanted to show a picture of some Koruna I had left over.  100 Koruna which equals about $5.