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Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., Stools,
Chair One of the basic pieces of furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and sofas), eating (table (furniture), tables), and sleeping (e.g., beds). Furni ...

Chair
s, and
sofa A couch, also known as a sofa, settee, futon, or chesterfield (see #Etymology, Etymology below), is a piece of furniture for seating two or three people. It is commonly found in the form of a bench (furniture), bench, with Upholstery, upholstere ...

sofa
s), eating (
tables Table may refer to: * Table (information) A table is an arrangement of information or data, typically in rows and columns, or possibly in a more complex structure. Tables are widely used in communication, research, and data analysis. Tables ap ...
), and sleeping (e.g.,
bed A bed is a piece of furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and sofas), eating (table (furniture), tables), and sleeping (e.g., beds). Furniture ...

bed
s). Furniture is also used to hold objects at a convenient height for work (as horizontal surfaces above the ground, such as tables and
desk A desk or bureau is a piece of with a flat -style work surface used in a school, , home or the like for academic, professional or domestic activities such as , , or using equipment such as a . Desks often have one or more , compartments, or pig ...

desk
s), or to store things (e.g.,
cupboard The term cupboard was originally used to describe an open-shelved side table for displaying dishware, more specifically plates, cups and saucers. These open cupboards typically had between one and three display tiers, and at the time, a drawer o ...

cupboard
s and shelves). Furniture can be a product of design and is considered a form of
decorative art ] The decorative arts are arts or crafts whose object is the design A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or specification ...
. In addition to furniture's functional role, it can serve a symbolic or religious purpose. It can be made from many materials, including
metal A metal (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

metal
,
plastic Plastics are a wide range of syntheticA synthetic is an artificial material produced by organic chemistry, organic chemical synthesis. Synthetic may also refer to: In the sense of both "combination" and "artificial" * Synthetic chemical or s ...

plastic
, and
wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. ...

wood
. Furniture can be made using a variety of
woodworking joints to cut a large mortise. Image:Timber Framing Circular Saw.jpg, A worker uses a large circular saw to cut joints. Joinery is a part of woodworking Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural ...
which often reflect the local culture. People have been using natural objects, such as tree stumps, rocks and moss, as furniture since the beginning of human civilization and continues today in some households/campsites. Archaeological research shows that from around 30,000 years ago, people started to construct and carve their own furniture, using wood, stone, and animal bones. Early furniture from this period is known from artwork such as a
Venus figurine , the earliest Venus figurine A Venus figurine is any Upper Paleolithic, Upper Palaeolithic Figurine, statuette portraying a woman, usually carved in Sculpture in-the-round, the round.Fagan, Brian M., Beck, Charlotte, "Venus Figurines", ''The Oxf ...
found in
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
, depicting the goddess on a throne. The first surviving extant furniture is in the homes of
Skara Brae Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12 ...

Skara Brae
in
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
, and includes cupboards, dressers and beds all constructed from stone. Complex construction techniques such as
joinery Joinery may refer to: * Woodworking joints, techniques and processes for connecting pieces of wood or lumber to produce more complex items * Joiner, someone who builds things by joining pieces of wood See also

* Join (disambiguation) * Joiner ...
began in the
early dynastic
early dynastic
period of
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a that is characterized by , , a form of government, and systems of communication (such as ). Civilizations are intimately associated with additional char ...

ancient Egypt
. This era saw constructed wooden pieces, including stools and tables, sometimes decorated with valuable metals or ivory. The evolution of furniture design continued in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
and
ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
, with thrones being commonplace as well as the
klinai Klinai (Ancient Greek, Greek for couches; singular klinē), known in Latin as lectus triclinaris, were a type of ancient furniture used by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks in their Symposium, symposia and by the ancient Romans in their somewhat d ...
, multipurpose couches used for relaxing, eating, and sleeping. The furniture of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
was usually heavy,
oak An oak is a tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including on ...

oak
, and ornamented. Furniture design expanded during the Italian
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. The seventeenth century, in both Southern and Northern Europe, was characterized by opulent, often gilded
Baroque The Baroque (, ; ) is a of , , , , and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th century until the 1740s. In the territories of the Spanish and Portuguese empires including the Iberian Peninsula it continued, together with new s ...

Baroque
designs. The nineteenth century is usually defined by revival styles. The first three-quarters of the twentieth century are often seen as the march towards
Modernism Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
. One unique outgrowth of post-modern furniture design is a return to natural shapes and textures.


Etymology

The English word ''
furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and sofas), eating (table (furniture), tables), and sleeping (e.g., beds). Furniture is also used to hold objects at a con ...
'' is derived from the French word , the noun form of , which means to supply or provide. Thus ''fourniture'' in French means supplies or provisions. The English usage, referring specifically to household objects, is specific to that language; French and other Romance languages as well as
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
use variants of the word '' meubles'', which derives from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
'' mobilia'', meaning "moveable goods".


History


Prehistory

The practice of using natural objects as rudimentary pieces of furniture likely dates to the beginning of human civilization. Early humans are likely to have used tree stumps as seats, rocks as rudimentary tables, and mossy areas for sleeping. During the late
palaeolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
or early
neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
period, from around 30,000 years ago, people began constructing and carving their own furniture, using wood, stone and animal bones. The earliest evidence for the existence of constructed furniture is a
Venus figurine , the earliest Venus figurine A Venus figurine is any Upper Paleolithic, Upper Palaeolithic Figurine, statuette portraying a woman, usually carved in Sculpture in-the-round, the round.Fagan, Brian M., Beck, Charlotte, "Venus Figurines", ''The Oxf ...
found at the Gagarino site in Russia, which depicts the goddess in a sitting position, on a throne. A similar statue of a seated woman was found in Catal Huyuk in Turkey, dating to between 6000 and 5500 BCE. The inclusion of such a seat in the figurines implies that these were already common artefacts of that age. A range of unique stone furniture has been excavated in
Skara Brae Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12 ...

Skara Brae
, a Neolithic village in Orkney, Scotland The site dates from 3100 to 2500 BCE and due to a shortage of wood in Orkney, the people of Skara Brae were forced to build with stone, a readily available material that could be worked easily and turned into items for use within the household. Each house shows a high degree of sophistication and was equipped with an extensive assortment of stone furniture, ranging from cupboards, dressers, and beds to shelves, stone seats, and
limpet Limpets are a group of aquatic snails that exhibit a conical gastropod shell, shell shape (patelliform) and a strong, muscular foot. Limpets are members of the class Gastropoda, but are polyphyletic, meaning the various groups called "limpets" ...
tanks. The stone dresser was regarded as the most important as it symbolically faces the entrance in each house and is therefore the first item seen when entering, perhaps displaying symbolic objects, including decorative artwork such as several Neolithic
carved stone balls Carved stone balls are petrospheres dated from the late Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. ...
also found at the site. File:Museum of Anatolian Civilizations 1320259 nevit.jpg, The Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük, a figurine discovered in Turkey and dated to approximately 6000 BC, is evidence that furniture existed in the
neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
. File:Skara Brae house 1 5.jpg, A dresser with shelves furnish a house in
Skara Brae Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12 ...

Skara Brae
, a settlement in what is now Scotland that was occupied from about 3180-2500 BC File:CucuteniRitualStatues.jpg,
Cucuteni Cucuteni () is a commune in Iași County, Western Moldavia, Romania, with a population of 1,446 as of 2002. The commune is composed of four villages: Băiceni, Bărbătești, Cucuteni, and Săcărești. It is located from the city of Iași and ...
ritualic figurines staying on miniature chairs; 4900-4750 BC; painted ceramic; Archaeology Museum Piatra Neamț (
Piatra Neamț Piatra Neamț (; german: Kreuzburg an der Bistrița (Siret), Bistritz; hu, Karácsonkő) is the capital city of Neamț County, in the historical region of Western Moldavia, in northeastern Romania. Because of its privileged location in the Easter ...
, Romania) File:CucuteniNeolithicChair.JPG, Cucuteni figurine staying on a miniature chair; 4750-4700 BC; ceramic; discoeved at Târpești (modern-day Romania); Archaeology Museum Piatra Neamț


Antiquity

Ancient furniture The furniture of the Ancient history, ancient world was made of many different materials, including Reed (plant), reeds, wood, Rock (geology), stone, metals, straws, and ivory. In Mesopotamia and Israelites, Israel, furniture would be Inlay, inlai ...
has been excavated from the 8th-century BCE
tumulus A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound A mound is a heaped pile of earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of co ...

tumulus
, the Midas Mound, in
Gordion Gordion ( el, Γόρδιον, ''Górdion''; tr, Gordion or ; la, Gordium) was the capital city of ancient Phrygia. It was located at the site of modern Yassıhüyük, about southwest of Ankara (capital of Turkey), in the immediate vicinity ...
,
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
. Pieces found here include
tables Table may refer to: * Table (information) A table is an arrangement of information or data, typically in rows and columns, or possibly in a more complex structure. Tables are widely used in communication, research, and data analysis. Tables ap ...
and inlaid serving stands. There are also surviving works from the 9th-8th-century BCE
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
n palace of
Nimrud Nimrud (; syr, ܢܢܡܪܕ ar, النمرود) is an ancient Assyrian city located south of the city of Mosul, and south of the village of Selamiyah ( ar, السلامية), in the Nineveh plains in Upper Mesopotamia. It was a major Assyri ...
. The earliest surviving carpet, the Pazyryk Carpet was discovered in a frozen tomb in
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region, constituting all of North Asia, from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It has been a part of R ...

Siberia
and has been dated between the 6th and 3rd century BCE.


Ancient Egypt

Civilization in
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a that is characterized by , , a form of government, and systems of communication (such as ). Civilizations are intimately associated with additional char ...

ancient Egypt
began with the clearance and irrigation of land along the banks of the
River Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

River Nile
, which began in about 6000 BCE. By that time, society in the
Nile Valley The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubi ...

Nile Valley
was already engaged in organized agriculture and the construction of large buildings.Redford, Donald B. ''Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times.'' (Princeton: University Press, 1992), p. 6. At this period, Egyptians in the southwestern corner of Egypt were herding cattle and also constructing large buildings.
Mortar Mortar may refer to: * Mortar (weapon), an indirect-fire infantry weapon * Mortar (masonry), a material used to fill the gaps between blocks and bind them together * Mortar and pestle, a tool pair used to crush or grind * Mortar, Bihar, a village in ...
was in use by around 4000 BCE The inhabitants of the Nile Valley and delta were self-sufficient and were raising barley and
emmer Emmer wheat or hulled wheat is a type of awned wheat Wheat is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which is a worldwide staple food. The many species of wheat together make up the genus ''Triticum''; the most widely grow ...

emmer
(an early variety of wheat) and stored it in pits lined with reed mats. They raised cattle, goats and pigs and they wove linens and baskets. Evidence of furniture from the predynastic period is scarce, but samples from First Dynasty tombs indicate an already advanced use of furnishings in the houses of the age. During the , which began in around 3200 BCE, Egyptian art developed significantly, and this included furniture design. Egyptian furniture was primarily constructed using wood, but other materials were sometimes used, such as
leather Leather is a strong, flexible and durable material obtained from the tanning Tanning may refer to: *Tanning (leather), treating animal skins to produce leather *Sun tanning, using the sun to darken pale skin **Indoor tanning, the use of arti ...

leather
, and pieces were often adorned with gold, silver, ivory and ebony, for decoration. Wood found in Egypt was not suitable for furniture construction, so it had to be imported into the country from other places, particularly
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3 ...
. The scarcity of wood necessitated innovation in construction techniques. The use of
scarf joint A scarf joint (also known as a scarph joint) is a method of joining two members end to end in woodworking Woodworking is the activity or skill of making items from wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plan ...

scarf joint
s to join two shorter pieces together and form a longer beam was one example of this, as well as construction of veneers in which low quality cheap wood was used as the main building material, with a thin layer of expensive wood on the surface. The earliest used seating furniture in the dynastic period was the stool, which was used throughout Egyptian society, from the royal family down to ordinary citizens. Various different designs were used, including stools with four vertical legs, and others with crossed splayed legs; almost all had rectangular seats, however. Examples include the workman's stool, a simple three legged structure with a concave seat, designed for comfort during labour, and the much more ornate folding stool, with crossed folding legs, which were decorated with carved duck heads and ivory, and had hinges made of
bronze Bronze is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appear ...

bronze
. Full
chair One of the basic pieces of furniture Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating (e.g., chairs, stools, and sofas), eating (table (furniture), tables), and sleeping (e.g., beds). Furni ...

chair
s were much rarer in early Egypt, being limited to only wealthy and high ranking people, and seen as a status symbol; they did not reach ordinary households until the
18th dynasty The Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (notated Dynasty XVIII, alternatively 18th Dynasty or Dynasty 18) is classified as the first dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created. New ...
. Early examples were formed by adding a straight back to a stool, while later chairs had an inclined back. Other furniture types in ancient Egypt include tables, which are heavily represented in art, but almost nonexistent as preserved items – perhaps because they were placed outside tombs rather than within, as well as beds and storage chests. Stool with woven seat MET 14.10.3 view 4.jpg, Stool with woven seat; 1991–1450 BC; wood & reed; height: 13 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art Jewelry chest of Sithathoryunet MET DP330328.jpg, Jewelry chest of Sithathoryunet; 1887–1813 BC; ebony, ivory, gold, carnelian, blue faience and silver; height: 36.7 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art Hatnefer's Chair MET 21M CAT047R4 (cropped).jpg, Chair of Hatnefer; 1492–1473 BC; boxwood, cypress, ebony & linen cord; height: 53 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Museum 000 (37).jpg, The ''Throne of
Tutankhamun Tutankhamun (, egy, wikt:twt-ꜥnḫ-jmn, twt-ꜥnḫ-jmn ''Təwātə-ʿānəḫ-amānə'', ; Egyptological pronunciation ''Tūt-anḫ-āmen'', ;  1341 1323 BC), commonly referred to as King Tut, was an ancient Egyptian phara ...

Tutankhamun
''; 1336–1327 BC; wood covered with sheets of gold, silver,
semi-precious A gemstone (also called a fine gem, jewel, precious stone, or semi-precious stone) is a piece of mineral In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Ea ...
and other stones, faience, glass and bronze; height: 1 m;
Egyptian Museum The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum or the Cairo Museum, in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display an ...

Egyptian Museum
(Cairo)


Ancient Greece

Historical knowledge of Greek furniture is derived from various sources, including
literature Literature broadly is any collection of written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entitie ...
,
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; Italian language, Italian: "baked earth", literally "cooked earth", from the Latin ''terra cocta''), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based ceramic glaze, unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the Pottery f ...

terracotta
, sculptures, statuettes, and painted vases. Some pieces survive to this day, primarily those constructed from metals, including bronze, or marble. Wood was an important material in Greek furniture, both domestic and imported. A common technique was to construct the main sections of the furniture with cheap solid wood, then apply a veneer using an expensive wood, such as maple or ebony. Greek furniture construction also made use of
dowels A dowel is a cylindrical rod, usually made of wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic materiala natural composite material, composite o ...
and for joining the wooden parts of a piece together. Wood was shaped by carving, steam treatment, and the lathe, and furniture is known to have been decorated with ivory, tortoise shell, glass, gold or other precious materials. The modern word “
throne A throne is the seat of state of a potentate or dignitary {{Short pages monitor {{Use dmy dates, date=April 2017 Furniture, Decorative arts Home Industrial design Domestic implements