Many of the following articles, which focus on the basic forms of early English oak furniture, are drawn from our book, Living with Early Oak.
Until the middle of the seventeenth century,
a typical house would have had only two chairs, one each for the master
and mistress. Everyone else sat on stools or benches (called "forms").
Benches, or forms (the two terms were used
interchangeably in their day), were used for dining at the long "refectory" tables
in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. Many of the "great rooms" or "halls" had
benches built into the walls; moveable ones were used on the room side
of the tables.
More boxes have survived from the seventeenth
century than any other form of furniture. Contemporary inventories show
that most households owned many of them. Like their larger cousin, the
chest, they were very useful, and comparatively easy to make.
Coffers, along with boxes (their smaller
cousins), are the most frequently found examples of seventeenth-century
furniture. They are a form of sixteenth-century furniture that the average
collector can still find and afford.
In Elizabethan and Jacobean households,
the court cupboard was one of the three most important pieces of furniture
(the others were the tester bed and the great chair.) They were fashionable
between about 1550 and 1675.
The gateleg table is the first intimate
dining table. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 brought many innovations
in both lifestyle and forms of furniture: family dining, and the appropriate
tables and chairs, was one of the most significant. Everyday dining moved
out of the great hall into a smaller chamber and became an occasion for
family and guests, not for the whole household and retinue.
were made in large quantities in the 16th and 17th centuries. They
were the most common form of seating (chairs were status symbols, and
were reserved for the head of the household), but also served as small
tables and as footstools.
The linenfold coffer is one of the earliest
forms of joined furniture and is of interest to collectors for both its
carving and its construction. It offers a rare opportunity to acquire
a piece of Tudor furniture. The Tudors were the English royal family
during the sixteenth century, and their best known members were Henry
VIII and Elizabeth I.