17th Century Furniture
The war and their rebellions, which have been so frequent here, have destroyed almost all their woods for both timber and firing.
- Thomas Dineley, 1681, English voyager
Ireland was gradually brought under English control during the 16th and 17th centuries. Few pieces of Irish furniture survive from this time. This was due in part to the religious wars which culminated in the overthrow of the Catholic Irish aristocracy, followed by land confiscation and forced transplantation.
A period of relative stability followed with the restoration of the British king, Charles II, in 1660. Cities expanded and trade grew. Society remained sharply divided on religious and class lines.
Irish furniture of the early 17th century was made largely from oak. By this time English walnut trees, planted in the 1500s, had matured. From the 1660s walnut imports became fashionable.
French and Dutch refugees, fleeing wars in Europe, brought continental styles and techniques. New types of furniture such as chests were introduced.
Carving, veneers (thin sheets of wood), and inlays of pearl, ivory, and contrasting woods became popular. Early chairs and stools had wooden seats with loose needlework cushions.
From the mid-17th century the Dutch style of cane seating appeared. Later, side chairs had upholstered or leather seats for comfort. Tall-backed chairs with richly-carved top rails became popular. Their stretchers, connecting and supporting the legs, were embellished by carved decoration and wood-turning.