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Biedermeier Furniture Guide: Key Characteristics Worth Knowing

Where design and craftsmanship artfully converge.

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A Viennese Biedermeier commode c. early 19th century handcrafted in splendid Karelian birc

Biedermeier Commode in splendid Karelian Burl c. 1820s

Biedermeier: Quick Facts 

Biedermeier furniture was the first style in the world that emanated from the growing middle class. Its construction utilized the ideal of truth through material, which later influenced the Bauhaus and Art Deco periods.The term "Biedermeier" refers to the style of German Art of the19th Century that flourished in art, architecture and design, which was made between1815 and 1848. The period and its style of interior decoration are both called Biedermeier, which began with the time of the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and ended with the onset of the European Revolutions. Thereafter, Biedermeier celebrated a revival (also known as 2nd Biedermeier) at the end of the 19th century, lasting into the 1920s. The simplicity and beauty of Biedermeier makes it a worthy addition to almost any modern interior. Furniture of this neoclassical style, popular between 1800 and 1850, aroused particular interest among collectors from the 1960s and 1970s, and this fascination continues today.

Important Facts to Consider
Before You Buy Biedermeier Furniture

As with most pieces of art, Biedermeier furniture can be purchased from a variety of sources, and most experts agree that where you buy depends on your own level of expertise. Beginners should always start with a specialist dealer; a good dealer will offer a binding guarantee of its authenticity. 

While the significance of the designer of a particular piece influence its price, how much a buyer pays depends, above all, on authenticity. This not only includes the quality of the veneer and materials—preferably light woods—but the lock, metal fittings and any glass panels fitted into display cabinets. The patina, the natural characteristics of aging, also adds greatly to the value of the piece. Equally, a piece will increase in value if it's devoid of major alterations. 

Noticeable Distinction: Original Biedermeiers
Versus Revivals

Proportion is a critical aspect of scale and one that's too often overlooked. Biedermeier furniture from the earlier period (1815-1830) was neoclassical in inspiration. Symmetry of form and excellence of proportion were retained for the most part, thereby the first period also supplied the most elegant form, which the second half of the period (1830-1848) lacked. Furniture of the later years of the period took on a distinct Wilhelminian or Victorian style. Revival pieces are understandably not as valuable as an original Biedermeier. Recognizing the difference between an original and a revival piece can be tricky for a beginner. Here are the distinctions between the two:

  • The original Biedermeier period was dominated by pieces made by hand, therefore any signs of machine sliced veneers and round dowel pins are indications of Biedermeier revival

  • Thinner veneer is another sign of Biedermeier revival. An original Biedermeier piece can be determined by the thickness of the veneers; originals were fitted with sawn veneers, typically 3-5mm thick opposed to rotary veneers that were used later during the Biedermeier revival—these were typically thinner

  • Narrower veneer patterns, elongated proportions, and the presence of inlays, a technique rarely used during the Biedermeier period, are all signs of Biedermeier revival

Biedermeier Commodes

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