How To Recognize Jacobean Furniture Design?

Jacobean is a term used to cover all English style furniture from the reign of King James,to King James II. However, throughout this span of time Jacobean furniture showed markedly different influences. The earliest Jacobean furniture was influenced mainly by Elizabethan (1603 -1688) styled furniture. Commonwealth Style (1649-1660) marks the middle of the Jacobean Period, when the furniture was of simpler design and undecorated. The late Jacobean Period is that of the Carolean period, named for King Charles II. In this period, the furniture was influenced by Flemish Baroque design…

Jacobean furniture was very sturdy, massive in size, notoriously uncomfortable, and made to last. The furniture pieces that were produced consisted mainly of chests, cupboards, trestle tables, wainscot chairs, and gate legged circular tables.

Jacobean furniture craftsmen experimented with various forms of ornament; they overloaded here, refined there, and occasionally brought to light some new idea, such as the clumsy forerunner of the gate leg table. Their furniture was wonderfully decorative, and it appeared against interior backgrounds of panelling that were almost outrageously elaborate.


Beds in the Jacobean age kept their ornate characteristics, and the bedheads in particular attracted the really imaginative craftsmen of the time, for they unloaded a wealth of grotesque fancy upon the enrichment of the bed head; the posts at the foot supporting the tester also came in for a share of lavish carving, but generally speaking there was more dignity in the design of these massive pieces of furniture in comparison to Elizabethan beds.


In general Jacobean design was more sober, square shaped, and heavy, even severe. A greater amount of good sense in the matter of decorative values is clear. The craftsmen were becoming craft conscious, and consequently their work did not reflect the instinctive love of ornament that in early Tudor times was expressed with such easy competence.

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To help recognize Jacobean Furniture Design these are the eight basic characteristics:

– Jacobean and Cromwellian (the first two parts of the larger Jacobean Period) furniture has straight lines.
– The earlier furniture of the period was heavy and cumbersome.
– The construction was framed. The basic design was a frame with panels to complete the piece.
– Turning the legs and stretchers developed near the end of the period, reducing the rigid appearance.
– Late in the period ornaments were applied although they did little to enhance the visual appeal.
-The early feet on Jacobean pieces were straight and square. Late in the period the ball foot was introduced.
– Crude “scratch carving” was used very late in the period as were painted decorations.
-Very little upholstery. Most seats were wood or rush.

3 Replies to “How To Recognize Jacobean Furniture Design?”

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  2. the photos I see of Jacobean furniture is in contrast to the description giving on several different sites describing Jacobean furniture. I am impressed by the curving ornate features of the legs of the furniture pieces I’ve see displayed as Jacobean style. What is displayed is in contrast to the “straight lines, and “little visual appeal” Jacobean style description. So I take it that the early produced Jacobean style furniture is no longer available. Still thank you much for the history and photos. Sincerely

  3. I have a Jacobean dining set and an “oak leaf” Jacobean hall chair. They look nothing like what is seen online but I know they are authentic as they have been passed down through the family. There is even a painting of my 4th Great grandfather sitting in one of them. All have twisted supports (stretchers) and there are 5 on each chair. Three “East to West” and two “North to South” under the seat area. What I see online has only 4 stretchers meaning ( I believe) they are repro’s.

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