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Queen Anne Style Defined

Get inspired by historial Queen Anne decor

By Lisa Frederick

Chances are you're already familiar with Queen Anne design—it had a major influence on the Colonial-style furnishings that still appear in traditional interiors throughout the United States. English immigrants of the early eighteenth century brought the look to America, where it took root and evolved along with the new land. Although Britain's Queen Anne died not long before the style arose in the 1720s, it was named in her honor. 

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Homey Traditional Dining Room
Cindy Aplanalp

The Basics

Queen Anne blends worldly elegance with a softer and lighter mien than the heavy, baroque style that came before it. Its emphasis is on grace and comfort, made possible by advances in craftsmanship that the English adopted from their French, Italian, and other European peers. Social customs of the time, such as recreation and travel, were changing, and the features of Queen Anne furniture reflect a lifestyle that, to some extent, continues today.

These designer rooms depict Queen Anne style:

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Philadelphia Queen Anne Armchair
Kindel Furniture

Graceful curves. Among the most distinctive features of Queen Anne furniture is its curvilinear form. Tables, chairs and desks are marked by the style's hallmark cabriole legs, which arch outward at the top (the "knee"), then taper in toward the feet (the "ankle"). Similarly, chair backs tend to be comfortably curved to fit the spine, rather than straight and unyielding.

Modest scale. In a departure from the massive, imposing pieces that preceded it, Queen Anne furniture appears lighter and more graceful. Furnishings in this style have a relatively compact footprint and a sense of delicacy and restraint that was largely absent in their predecessors. The early and mid-eighteenth century brought innovations in transport that allowed people to travel more extensively than ever; thus, they needed furniture that was easy to bring with them.

Rich woods. Many Queen Anne pieces are crafted from traditional English woods such as oak, but more vibrant species such as cherry and walnut appeared as well. Asian influences during the period led to the use of exotic woods such as mahogany, sometimes embellished with lacquered detailing known as japanning.

Cabriole Leg Table
Folding tables. Today's classic card and game tables have their roots in Queen Anne style; such a piece had never existed before this period, when leisure time became a higher priority. Collapsible and drop-leaf tables, which could be configured to suit the room and the occasion, also gained favor. Some models even had collapsible legs that allowed homeowners to store them flat.

Shell and fan motifs. Although Queen Anne furniture usually is devoid of heavy ornamentation, neither is it completely plain. Pieces such as case goods, desks, and chairs often are crowned by a simple carved shell or fan detail, adding subtle visual appeal that plays off the furnishings' curved lines.

If you like Queen Anne style, you may also like traditional and Victorian style. Click to explore!

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