While stonework is an incredibly early form of craftsmanship, once human civilization started making furniture for permanent dwellings, wood became a common medium. Wood furniture has varied greatly in style and quality across cultures and ages, and it has remained in use in the modern age in various forms. From rustic to ornate, simple to involved, people have been carving wood for a long, long time. The first pieces of furniture were hewn from stone, but it wasn’t long before people realize wood could be a lot easier to work with. If they had access to it, that is.
Some of the earliest wooden furniture has been tables and cabinets, though chairs and other pieces followed. For areas where wood is plentiful, it provides an easily worked material to fashion furniture and housing. In areas where wood is rare, the ownership of wooden furniture would be seen as a sign of wealth and power. even if wood was plentiful, having highly ornate, large pieces of furniture for rest and relaxation set one apart from the masses. From the 9th-8th Century B.C., in Ancient Egypt and Greece, the most popular forms of furniture were beds found within tombs of Queens and Pharaohs to rest their deceased bodies upon, as well as chairs and wooden headrests in lieu of pillows for common Ancient Egyptians.
Ancient Greeks in later times were quite fond of lounging, especially the wealthier and aristocratic types who had the time and money for hosting gatherings. To facilitate this, as mentioned previously, the use of wooden sofas was incredibly common. For poor farmers, they would likely have a small area to recline, beds, and the like. Even as civilization advanced and spread across the world, the patterns in wooden furniture between those with money and those without can be seen across civilizations.
Though the bulk of such furniture was wooden based, already cultures were adding ornate features and designs. Ancient Egyptians especially would inlay wooden pieces with ivory, gold, or other precious materials, most of such work being reserved for tombs and the royal family. Ornate styles became more common in Ancient Rome, which copied the styles of Greek furniture, who mostly copied the Egyptians before forming their own stylistic forms. The Egyptians also utilized wooden veneers, though solid woof pieces also prominently featured, amongst poor and rich. Obviously, poorer people’s furniture was much less ornate and styled, and may very well have been carved from the farmer or laborer themselves. Such wooden construction persisted far past the ancient civilizations.
For example, as settlers expanded across the United States, the single-family homes hacked from the forests into log cabins were often furnished with rustic, homemade furniture whittled from nearby lumber. Meanwhile, carpenters and craftsmen would build truly ornate and involved masterpieces for wealthy clients, such as the royalty of Europe. Between the years of 1801-1900, 19th Century furniture was very artistic and detailed. Gothic styles were popular and chairs often had fancy cut-out designs. The intricate designed chairs were often used by the wealthy at dinners.
Meanwhile, in America, the rustic, utilitarian furniture would become the forerunners of genuine Amish furniture and Amish utility room furniture. The solid wood pieces crafted by the Amish demonstrates, in a generally more ornate fashion, the rustic furniture early settlers would have whittled and purchased for their homes. As the country settled, mass-produced furniture became much more commonplace and affordable.
The twentieth century brought a lot of advances to furniture in design and materials used. Once common, solid wooden furniture properly fashioned from such wood has become less common, and as a result, more expensive. The traditions of Amish furniture building harken back to the earliest forms of woodworking and furniture construction, and in their legacy, glimpses of earlier woodworking techniques and styles can be seen.
Solid wood furniture can still be found and purchased, and not just from the Amish. Though other materials and mass production have made other types of furniture popular and affordable, there is still a market for solid furniture, both in antiques and modern furnishings. No longer the rustic, roughly whittled pieces of a frontier cabin or peasant farmer, such furniture now has the refined craftsmanship fine-tuned over centuries. Whether carven by hand or through modern machining, wooden furniture has been a part of human civilization since its inception. Just as the Ancient Egyptians reclined on wooden sofas, so too do modern folks.
Tables and beds carved from lumber have been a part of civilization since the first peoples settled the early rivers they called home. While areas without wood made do with stone, wood became a popular material for furniture, and that is still true today in many cases. Solid wood furniture is just as sturdy and reliable in modern times as it was in ancient times.