19th Century Furniture
Furniture is indeed made nowadays for show, and upholstery, coverings, and trimmings for the same ends.
- The Irish Builder 1st September 1879
The first decades of the 19th century were a period of relative peace and prosperity. Tastes in furniture embraced the Greek revival style. Chair-makers adopted the “klismos” – a chair with sabre legs that splayed outwards with scrolled back rests. Regency furniture was derived largely from this style and the published work of designer Thomas Hope (1769-1831). Classical and Egyptian motifs were also adapted for decorative use.
Mahogany and rosewood were popular and much furniture was japanned black, decorated with gilded lines and ornamental devices. Brass mounts and inlaid lines of brass and ebony were also fashionable.
During this period, Dublin furniture firms such as Mack Williams and Gibton, George Gillington, Joshua Kearney, James Del Vecchio, and George Murray thrived. With the arrival of the machine age distinctive new furniture styles appeared. From the second half of the 19th century Robert Strahan adopted the current Victorian styles.
Arthur Jones whose firm flourished between 1824 to 1860 specialised in carved yew wood. Using indigenous wood, the new styles incorporated a range of historical and natural motifs. Killarney wood-work, inlaid with local scenes such as Muckross abbey, was directed towards the tourist market. The Neo-Celtic movement and subsequent styles, fuelled by the discovery of ancient art treasures, produced distinctive furniture. A reaction to industrialisation set in at the end of the century and efforts to promote good design and original craftsmanship ultimately led to the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and the beginning of the modern style.