If you’ve seen lavish Victorian furniture at neighborhood estate sales, you likely remember each piece’s elaborate curved styling and rich, plush fabrics. However, you may not be acquainted with Victorian Eastlake furniture, a lesser-known style of the same period.
Antique Eastlake furniture embodies a much simpler design motif. It features sturdy construction, superb craftsmanship, and minimal ornamentation.
Keep reading to learn about furniture’s history and design elements. Also, discover common types of furniture along with average auction selling prices. Finally, get tips on where to find authentic Eastlake-style antique furniture to accent your home.
History of Antique Eastlake Furniture: 1870 into 1890s
In the late 19th-century, over-the-top Victorian furniture decorated most English homes. The pieces’ exaggerated curves and plush upholstery combined with thick, textured draperies. They create a self-contained living environment that allowed for little outside light or air.
Though the Victorian style was very popular, not everybody was a fan. British architect Charles Locke Eastlake wasn’t afraid to speak out against this dominant trend. Eastlake strongly disliked Victorian furniture styles, especially pieces that reflected the Rococo era and Renaissance Revival.
Eastlake was equally displeased with mass-produced pieces’ lack of creativity and substandard workmanship. Many artisans shared his concern. They were afraid that their artistic prospects were rapidly diminishing.
Architect Charles Eastlake’s Bold Move
Determined to fight this trend toward mediocrity. Charles Eastlake penned a book entitled Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details. In this 1868 work, Eastlake emphasized that home furnishings should be carefully crafted by workers. He wanted them to take pride in their handcrafted or machine-made work.
Eastlake’s book laid the groundwork for a markedly different furniture style. He became an advocate for “simple, sturdy furniture.” This focus on simplicity and fine craftsmanship. It was a dominant tenet of the upcoming Arts and Crafts Movement. The Eastlake style of furniture also mirrored elements of the era’s Queen Anne furniture style.
Emergence of Eastlake-Style “Cottage Furniture”
In 1872, Charles Eastlake’s book Hints made it to the United States. The book spurred American furniture manufacturers to create designs based on Eastlake’s unconventional furniture style.
With skilled workers and proper machinery. Most Eastlake-style pieces were quite easy to make while appearing rather complex in nature. The items’ flat surfaces, low-relief carvings, and slightly incised lines helped. They certainly made the furniture durable and easy to clean and polish.
Because of its clean lines and simple design, the Eastlake style of furniture became known as “cottage furniture.” Eastlake pieces were also inexpensive compared to more elaborate Victorian furniture.
Eastlake Victorian Furniture Manufacturing
Eastlake furniture began to gain traction in the American market. The furniture manufacturers geared up for ambitious output goals. Production was split between two types of furniture makers. Large manufacturers and professional cabinetmakers.
Several large American furniture manufacturers mass-produced most Eastlake furniture pieces. The market-savvy furniture makers adopted current styles, and they offered pieces with varied quality and price levels. Two notable companies were located in New York
City and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Major furniture manufacturers typically marked their furniture with a specially crafted stamp or label. Identifying marks commonly appear on the underside of a settee or Eastlake table. Stamps and labels can also be found inside many dresser drawers.
Skilled, professional cabinetmakers turned many of Charles Eastlake’s designs into finished products for their own homes and for clients. Cabinetmakers utilized time-saving scroll saws, turning machines, and other equipment. They consistently turned out spindles, turned legs, trestles, geometrically shaped brackets, and other furniture components.
Although the cabinetmakers drew inspiration from Charles Eastlake’s designs, they didn’t necessarily adhere to his “simple, sturdy furniture” and Arts and Crafts Movement design principles. For example, some professional cabinetmakers made Eastlake pieces of furniture with minimal incising, while others featured ornate carvings. Even with these varied interpretations, however, Eastlake’s original concept mostly survived.
Eastlake Furniture Style
The furniture design embodies various creative influences and signature components. The furniture is primarily composed of specific wood species, and it contains few embellishments compared to other Victorian-era furniture.
The furniture reflects limited medieval and Renaissance Revival influences. Charles Eastlake also incorporated extensive Gothic Revival elements in his work. Surprisingly, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern design elements are also present in some Eastlake furniture.
Eastlake furniture pieces often contain themes that reflect elements of the natural world. Plant and animal designs make frequent appearances. Embellishments include quirky acorn accents and carved leaves.
Eastlake furniture was generally constructed from cherry, oak, rosewood, or walnut hardwood. Some pieces also feature beautiful burls or rounded tree growths with stunning special effects.
Authentic furniture pieces often feature oiled natural finishes to showcase the wood’s striking grain. In fact, Charles Eastlake recommended this furniture finishing method, criticizing the use of varnishes and stains to camouflage cheap woods.
Some American Eastlake furniture features ebonized wood, particularly on pieces with Asian design elements. Faux bamboo effects were also introduced on occasion.
Eastlake-style sofas, settees, and most chairs feature fabric or leather upholstery. However, some side chairs were fabricated without upholstered coverings.
Numerous manufacturers and cabinetmakers produced Eastlake-style furniture. Even with this diversity of sources, however, several common elements designate authentic Eastlake furniture pieces.
Furniture Design Motifs
Despite Eastlake’s focus on “simple, sturdy furniture,” most Eastlake pieces have a fairly complex design. For example, an Eastlake-style settee could feature multiple carved motifs on a single item.
Geometric Design Elements
Eastlake furniture is known for its geometric design elements. Specifically, Eastlake furniture pieces frequently exhibit differently sized squares and rectangles. Angular design elements are also common. Where curves do exist, they’re modest and reflect a modernistic style.
Lightly Incised Designs
Skilled woodworkers used modern equipment to execute lightly incised designs. These carefully crafted effects were more cost-effective to produce (and easier to clean) than the elaborate, high-relief effects seen in other Victorian-era pieces.
In comparison to Mission-style furniture’s stark angular lines and complete lack of decoration, Eastlake pieces feature a minimal number of embellishments. The most common decorations are wooden knobs or pulls, as well as acorn accents and carved leaves.
Eastlake Decorative Home Elements
The Eastlake style also found its way into the decorative home elements marketplace. Interior decorative elements, such as mantels, were common. Exterior elements included porch posts, balustrades, perforated gables, lattice work, and beaded spindles.
Eastlake Furniture vs Other Period Styles
The Eastlake furniture style was markedly different from other Victorian-era styles. In addition, British and American Eastlake furniture also displayed some contrasts.
Eastlake Furniture Style vs Typical Victorian Style
Eastlake furniture’s geometric, angular designs and lightly incised carvings present a strong contrast to typical Victorian-style furniture. First, Victorian furniture features clear classical influences. Pieces display elaborate high-relief carvings, and every item is virtually overflowing with curves.
Luxurious (often velvet) upholstery, often in rich, deep colors, is the norm for Victorian sofas, settees, and chairs. Decorative effects such as multiple material layers, embossing, and tassels are abundant.
British Eastlake vs American Eastlake
Generally speaking, British Eastlake furniture has minimal decorative elements compared to similar furniture pieces made in the United States. In fact, a more embellished Eastlake piece is generally assumed to be from an American factory. English furniture makers mostly adhered to Eastlake’s “simple, sturdy furniture” design principles.
There’s also a distinction between Eastlake-inspired handcrafted furniture and machine-made Eastlake items, the latter of which were mainly produced in the United States. Charles Eastlake had a strong distaste for machine-made furniture, and he especially disliked many of the American-made pieces.
Types of Eastlake Victorian Furniture
Furniture manufacturers and cabinetmakers produced Eastlake-style furniture for almost every room in the home. Buyers could purchase furniture pieces or suites for the living room, parlor, dining room, and bedroom.
Common Eastlake Victorian Furniture Pieces
The following are some of the most common Eastlake furniture pieces. You might see one of these at an antique shop or estate sale.
Parlor Side Chairs
Platform Rocking Chairs
Wood Frame Rocking Chairs
Settees and Sofas
Varied Parlor Sets
Claw Foot Parlor Tables
Walnut Eastlake Desk Lamp Tables
Marble Top Parlor Tables
Marble Top Side Tables
|Cane Seat Dining Chairs
Rectangular Dining Tables
Eastlake Walnut Round Dining Tables
Upholstered Dining Chairs
Bedroom Furniture and Armoires
Carved Full-Sized Beds
Top Dressers- Marble
Marble Top Eastlake Dressers
Top Gentleman’s Dressers- Marble
|3 -Tier Book Stand with Drawers
Barrel Roll Secretary Desk
Beveled Glass Mirror Coat Hook Hall Tree
Marble Top Washstand
Washstand Commode Cabinet
Eastlake Furniture Value and Price Guide
Although Eastlake furniture appeared on the market well over a century ago, it continues to enjoy enduring popularity with collectors and design enthusiasts. However, this popularity hasn’t translated into higher prices for most Eastlake furniture pieces.
In special circumstances, though, Eastlake-style furniture may command a higher-than-usual price. If an Eastlake piece was made by Herter Brothers, or another renowned furniture maker of that era, it is likely worth more than the average Eastlake item. If a furniture piece displays impressive quality, or has exceptional provenance, it should also bring a higher price.
Eastlake Furniture: Average Auction Selling Prices
The following are average auction selling prices for four commonly available Victorian Eastlake furniture pieces. Averages were obtained from the mean selling price of four similar pieces of Eastlake furniture.
- Parlor Sets $394.00
- Parlor or Side Chairs $112.50
- Marble Top Side Tables $131.00
- Dresser or Buffet $305.00
Where to Find Victorian Eastlake Furniture
Eastlake Victorian furniture reflects a specific design style rather than a manufacturer’s brand. For this reason, it’s necessary to know the hallmarks of an Eastlake piece before searching for it.
Estate sales are a great place to find antique furniture. Once you’re clear on Eastlake furniture characteristics, take your newfound knowledge to a professionally operated estate sale. These lively multi-day events take place in cities and towns throughout the United States. Find an estate sale (or two) near you this weekend, and enjoy the treasure hunt for distinctive Eastlake furniture.
Browsing through well-stocked antique shops is a delightful way to spend the day. Whether you’re shopping in a small, local antique shop or a large, multi-dealer antique mall, you might happen upon a few Eastlake furniture pieces in your travels.
Although you might find Eastlake-style furniture anywhere in the United States, your odds are especially good in the eastern and midwestern parts of the country. Eastern-based manufacturers partnered with their midwestern branch offices to make Eastlake furniture available to customers.
Local and online auctions represent a way to liquidate lots (or groups) of items from house cleanouts, estate liquidations, and storage locker buyouts. If possible, obtain a list of auction items before attending a local auction. When you arrive, you may be able to inspect
auction items before the auctioneer bangs his gavel to begin the proceedings.
Browsing an online auction doesn’t allow you to physically view the auction items. However, a virtual auction venue draws sellers from all over the country. This increases the chances that you’ll see an Eastlake furniture piece that piques your interest.
A general merchandise auction brings many diverse items up for bids (perhaps including antique Eastlake furniture). Plus, watching a professional auctioneer in action is quite entertaining and educational. View online auction house calendars for a schedule of upcoming events.
Searchable online auction databases enable you to hone in on specific Eastlake furniture pieces. Sellers include private owners and antique dealers. Reputable sellers will provide you with a detailed description, quality photographs, and they will mention an item’s defects.
Online Antique and Vintage Marketplaces
Antiques and collectibles shoppers are increasingly buying their treasures from online antique and vintage marketplaces. Chairish and Etsy are two popular venues. eBay also features many items with a “Buy It Now” choice along with an option to bid.
Starting Your Eastlake Victorian Furniture Collection
If Eastlake furniture strikes your fancy, choose a piece (or two) to accent your home. Beginning your search at an estate sale is always a good choice, and you can broaden your horizons from there. Whatever direction you take, you’ll join the ranks of Eastlake owners who appreciate a different kind of Victorian furniture.