Know Your American Antique and Collectible Furniture

A Guide to Designers, Styles and Elements

A man French at Messrs Nicholls & James, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, polishes a Windsor armchair for export to the USA.
Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When it comes to antiques, Americans are babes in the woods. The earliest furniture documented as having been made on these shores dates from about 1650 - a mere three and a half centuries of cabinetry. Some of the most popular furniture, like those in styles now dubbed Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern, aren't even antiques at all, strictly speaking, since an antique by the definition set forth by the United States Customs Service is something at least 100 years old or more. Younger than that is usually termed "vintage" or "collectible."

But whatever their official designation, American antiques are always collectible. It's fascinating to see how our native style has evolved, from almost slavish imitation of British pieces - as laid down in design books by cabinetmakers like Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite - to unique forms that could only happen here, by homegrown masters like Gustav Stickley and Charles Eames.

Below is a listing of articles on quintessentially American antique furniture, furniture elements, and designers from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

Click on the title below to review each article.

American Furniture Examples

  • Curule - This ancient style has been interpreted over and over, including examples made by American furniture crafters.
  • Davenport's Double Meaning - Is it a sofa or a desk? Find out about two different types of Davenports.
  • Eames - Know Your Eames Furniture - The popularity of Eames furniture has intensified during the past two decades. See what makes it so appealing to Mid-Century Modern enthusiaists.
  • Fancy Chair - Learn what makes this particular chair style so "fancy."
  • Hitchcock Chair - Who was Hitchcock, and why does he have a chair named for him? Find out all about these fancy chairs.
  • Hutch Table - See a style of table dating back to the Middle Ages that also doubles as a chair.
  • Tavern Table - Yes, this style of table was used in taverns, but it also had a place in Colonial homes. 
  • Windsor Chair - A style of chair developed in England and perfected in Colonial America.
  • Wooton Desk - If any desk can have it all, it's the Wooton Desk. Find out about this unique piece and the person it's named after. 

    American Furniture Designers and Manufacturers

    • Belter, John Henry - One of the great American makers of Rococo Revival style furniture.
    • Eames, Charles & Ray - Mid-Century Modern style is epitomized in the furniture designed by this forward-thinking couple.
    • Evans, Paul - Another Mid-Century designer that has become "collectible" in the past 10-20 years.
    • Horner, R.J. - A Victorian era company based in New York that made not only high end pieces, but also moderately priced furniture for the average American home.
    • Meeks, J.&J.W. - This furniture business satisfied customer demand for moderately priced furniture for more than 70 years.
    • Stickley, Gustav - Pieces crafted in Gustav Stickley's workshop are widely viewed as the best of the best in terms of Mission style furniture.

    American Furniture Periods & Styles

    American Interpretations of British Styles

    American Furniture Components