Regency style furniture is an elegant choice for today’s homes. Here’s how to recognize this popular and unique style of furniture design and see why it is so timelessly appealing.
Whether you are looking for antique furniture or newly crafted antique-inspired heirloom pieces, Greg and I hope you enjoy our guide to Regency style furniture.
The English Regency Period
The Regency period is named for the time in British history when George IV served as Prince Regent, from 1811-1820. As Prince Regent, he was the acting monarch on behalf of his mentally unwell father George III. But the term Regency style has stuck to describe a longer period than the 9 years when he was Prince Regent. It continues through the decade of George IV’s own reign from 1820 to his death in 1830, and sometimes even through to 1937 during the reign of his younger brother William.
This was at the tail end of the Georgian era, which was already a flourishing time in Britain for Georgian furniture design. During the Georgian era, furniture designers such as Thomas Chippendale, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite rose to fame. The Regency period continued England’s reputation as an inspiring player in European art, architecture and aesthetics, including furniture design.
The Inspiration for Regency Furniture Design
George IV’s impact on architecture, fashion, and furniture design was huge. Dubbed as “the Prince of Pleasure” he had fine taste, championed the arts, and enjoyed living the good life. He influenced interior design through his own personal tastes and choices, as well as through his royal commissions such as the building of the Royal Pavilion and the remodel of Buckingham Palace.
The furniture crafted during the English Regency period developed the existing Neoclassical feel of the Georgian era. The Neoclassical look drew from ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian architecture and design. In some ways it was a British interpretation of the French Empire style, with its monumental look, ornate gold ormolu mounts, and classical and military motifs. But, as the Encyclopeadia Britannica points out, Regency style showed more “purity of detail and structure” than the earlier Neoclassical style or the French Empire style.
The Look of Regency Style Furniture
Imagine a period drama adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, and you have the perfect picture of a Regency style dining room, living room or other interior. The Jane Austen Society of North America tells us that Jane Austen’s famous Regency novel Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. The air of elegance and refinement that we see in all her books and the movie adaptations of her novels are a great example of the arts and design that flourished during the era.
Regency style furniture is stately and monumental, with a streamlined and symmetrical look that is not frilly or fussy. It is not covered with heavily-carved detail. The ornamentation instead comes from beautiful and exotic woods, dramatic and decorative veneers, and gilded hardware or metal accents.
Typical Regency Style Furniture Features
- Shapes and motifs inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian architecture and design. You might see Egyptian heads, images of ancient Greek and Roman gods, and mythological beasts including the Egyptian sphinx and griffins.
- Clean and symmetrical profiles whether masculine straight lines or classical arches and geometric shapes.
- Decorative motifs draw on classical symbols like laurel wreaths and acanthus leaves as well as lyres, which are small U-shaped harps. You will also see rosettes and masks.
- Lion heads are a repeat motif, especially in brass or metal accents to give a touch of royal pomp to the furniture. Lion heads with rings also serve as handles on drawers.
- Dark woods create a majestic and imposing feel. Mahogany wood was especially popular with furniture makers at that time, and this strong tropical hardwood was in fashion throughout the Georgian era. The woods were left with a natural and deliciously polished finish to draw attention to the beautiful grain.
- Exotic wood veneers add a decorative surface effect and include rosewood and zebrawood, perhaps in classic inlay and banding designs.
- Regal gold ormolu mounts and classical and military motifs.
- Brass was a popular choice of metal, providing that noble and monumental look and serving as accents and inlays to contrast beautifully with the dark woods.
- The styles of chair legs include turned legs, x-shaped stretchers, saber legs and legs with classic column looks.
- Claw and ball feet look majestic while brass or other metal paw feet on chairs and tables also add a decorative touch.
Antique-Inspired New Regency Style Furniture
While antique English Regency style furniture is expensive to buy, many of today’s furniture makers create exquisite pieces that pay tribute to the originals. Often these pieces are scaled down in size to suit the smaller scale of today’s homes compared to the huge rooms in the stately mansions and palaces that King George IV spent time in!
These high-quality antique-inspired pieces by exceptional furniture makers such as Jonathon Charles, Scarborough House, and Theodore Alexander might be smaller in size, but they often use the same traditional hand-craftsmanship techniques as the ones used by the Regency furniture masters 200 years ago.
Regency Style Furniture for Today’s Homes
You can see how some of our customers have added Regency style furniture to their homes in our “customer spotlight” blog posts:
- Vintage Regency Style Games Table in our customer’s chateau home in Georgia.
- Jonathan Charles Buckingham Console Table in our customer’s living room in Pennsylvania.
If you are shopping for Regency style furniture check out our large selection at the link. If you want the traditional appeal of Old World furniture but without excessive fussiness or heavily ornate decoration, this is a terrific choice for you. The elegant style is sure to impress with its emphasis on clean-cut lines, high-quality materials, and eternally classic silhouettes and motifs.