The History of Furniture and Its Evolution

Furniture styles have evolved over time due to cultural and technological shifts, from ancient Egyptian seating arrangements to functional elegance of contemporary designs. Here we explore how societal influences have had an effect on furniture styles throughout history.

The Industrial Revolution saw mass production make furniture cheaper and more accessible for more people, leading to less ornate designs and towards pieces with greater functionality than ornamentation. This resulted in furniture shifting away from being fashion statements to becoming practical items that prioritized function over style.

The Neolithic Period

The Neolithic period saw humans transitioning from nomadic lifestyles to established farming communities, which necessitated more permanent structures and furnishings such as furniture pieces made out of stone or clay.

The Industrial Revolution saw a significant departure from craftsmanship seen in earlier centuries, as styles like Rococo and Baroque became mass produced and cheaper to produce. To counter this shift in style, Arts and Crafts became prominent – emphasizing handcrafted quality made from natural materials while Bauhaus and Modernism revolutionised furniture design by emphasizing functionality and simplicity.

Ancient Egypt

Furniture in ancient Egypt had more than just practical value – it also held cultural meaning. A piece of furniture often served to express the artistry and creativity of its craftsman.

Working class Egyptians typically had access to simple furniture like stools and tables crafted from cheap materials that sat quite close to the floor.

Rich people and royalty had superior furniture. This included stools with animal legs carved into them as stools, folding chairs made of wood or materials like woven rushes for seating purposes, etc.

Ancient Greece & Rome

The Greeks encouraged their scientists and philosophers to seek rational solutions to life’s big questions; at the same time they were great lovers of art, literature and drama.

People ate meals on elegantly upholstered couches known as Klines that could be easily pushed against a wall when not needed for seating purposes. Both fixed and folding stools were available.

Roman furniture designs were heavily influenced by Greek influences. An example is the cathedra chair used by teachers to meet with their pupils.

Medieval Period

The Age of Knights and Troubadours saw a vibrant surge in European culture, including an intellectual renaissance spawning notable philosophers such as Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas. Additionally, this period saw the evolution of Gothic furniture styles.

Little of the furniture from this period remains, but we can reconstruct its look using contemporary sources and images depicted in manuscripts. Oak was widely used, with large four-poster beds featuring massive legs connected by sturdy stretchers being common features of domestic interiors depicted therein.


The Renaissance can be defined as a period of renewal. It saw a renewed interest in antiquity – particularly Greek and Roman cultures – while furniture designs became architectural with an emphasis on symmetry.

Flamboyant Gothic styles were gradually replaced with more subdued ornamentation reminiscent of ancient Rome. Life was short at this time and elaborate designs showcased wealth and knowledge of owners.

French royalty imported works of Italian Renaissance artists to decorate their palaces, while French cabinetmakers refined dressoir designs further by adding more prominent architectural features in chests and cabinets.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought increased competition to furniture manufacturing industries, leading to innovations like mortise-and-tenon construction and miter joining processes that revolutionized furniture design. These advancements created stronger pieces with longer durability while opening doors for professions such as cabinetmaking. Veneering also became more widely practiced to highlight wood grain patterns while adding decorative appeal.

As furniture design evolves, from classic wooden furnishings to sleek, contemporary pieces, its future will be defined by ongoing technological innovation and an emphasis on sustainability. Manufacturers who prioritize sustainable practices like customization and ethical business conduct will be best-equipped for success in the future.


Modernism revolutionized furniture design by emphasizing “form follows function.” Additionally, this movement introduced novel materials like tubular steel and plywood while forgoing any unnecessary or extraneous ornamentation.

Modernism’s principles can be seen in iconic designs like the Eames Lounge Chair and Noguchi Table. Both pieces use different materials or colors to create tension while remaining harmonious without excessive decoration or unnecessary embellishment.

Modernism was deeply impacted by avant-garde art movements like Cubism and Futurism, which focused on geometric forms to break with traditional artistic conventions and break away from them. Their influence can still be seen today through furniture design.


Furniture has long been used as a status symbol, reserved only for those in possession of resources. Today, designers seek to update classic pieces with contemporary twists.

Contemporary styles feature a sleek, minimal aesthetic with innovative materials such as bent plywood. These innovations reflect Modernism and Art Deco principles by emphasizing simple geometric forms with an emphasis on functionality.

E-commerce will become increasingly influential within the furniture industry and designers must place increasing emphasis on sustainable practices and circular business models.