Having an eye for vintage and antique furniture can help you accentuate your home, and it can even help you in starting a business selling thrifted finds. With there being so many different styles of furniture in existence, how do you identify different vintage types? The following article will attempt to give you an understanding of vintage furniture and the many varieties of craftsmanship that make it special.

Look at the feet!

You can usually determine how old a piece of furniture is, and the style of its design, by taking a look at its lets and feet. One popular style is Queen Anne furniture, which was popularized during the royal reign of Queen Anne of Britain during the 1700s. This style of furniture is very easily identified by the curvaceous legs and pad-like feet. Queen Anne style furniture can also be identified by S-scroll carvings and intricate seashells engraved into the wood. Most Queen Anne style furniture was produced using oak wood, but other varieties of wood are used as well.

Another popular style of antique furniture is Chippendale, which is an American furniture style that originated in the 1600s. The feet of Chippendale furniture ordinarily showcase a handful of feet styles, but they are often bulbous in design when compared to the style of the furniture’s legs. Lion paws, ball-and-claw and wide padded bottoms are sure indicators that an antique piece of furniture is in the Chippendale style — especially if the wood is dark in color.

Look at the joinery!

Joinery is the word used to describe the wooden components of a piece of furniture that bring it together and hold it in place. Newer, more modern furniture is often machine-cut, so the joinery in the drawers and any other connected parts will look even, uniform and perfectly cut. In antique and vintage furniture, the joinery is hand-done, meaning that there will be imperfections, such as nicks and cuts that appear out of place. Real antique handmade furniture is never perfectly symmetrical, and showcases fewer dovetails than mass-produced pieces. That’s because the craftspeople who created these antique pieces created the dovetails and other joining pieces by hand, which was time-consuming and relied on the use of hand-tools, as opposed to power tools and machinery.

Other antique furniture characteristics

You can also take a look at the backs and seats of antique chairs to get a good idea of what the styles might be. For example, Ladder-back chairs with horizontal slats tend to indicate that the piece is of early American colonial style. However, many revival pieces have been produced, so careful attention to detail is needed to make sure you’re not buying a replica instead of an actual antique.

Some popular furniture designers of the past made use of marquetry and other ornate techniques to make their creations stand out. One such designer was George Hepplewhite, who produced furniture during the mid 1700s. His style stood out from Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture in that he would blend contrasting wood colors and paints to create designs in his chairs, tables and cabinetry. His furniture style can easily be identified by the use of painted feather motifs, trees and urn designs. Hepplewhite also made popular the process of gluing strips of wood to cloth, which was applied to roll-top desks.

If you want to learn more about identifying vintage and antique furniture, check out some of the numerous guides that exist online — such as this one and this one.