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BIEDERMEIER CONSTRUCTION

The frames of Biedermeier furniture pieces such as sofas, chairs, drawers and tables were usually locally sourced birch or pine with hand fitted wooden plugs rather than screws (which you see in 2nd Biedermeier pieces) with an overlay of a top quality decorative wood veneer to add the wow factor.

 

Golden Birch is the most prevalent show wood as it was a locally grown product. It has a wonderful rich grain to the veneer that is only millimetres thick with wild quilting, swirls and flames that can be bookmatched on cabinet and drawer fronts or used to create 1/4 or 1/8th segments on tables to make a repeating pattern.

 

This is often supplemented with subtle use of black ormulu finishing on posts, edges or feet to counterpoint the show woods.

You also see use of gilt and cast brass on some of the early Biedermeier pieces where they are drawing more specifically on the more garish French Empire style.

 

The finish is built up from layers of hand applied highly shiny french polish in colours ranging from the classic light honey colour that was adopted by the later Art Deco Movement to mid oak colour or more rarely a darker tone where quilted and figured mahogany veneers were chosen. You also see other show woods such as Birds eye maple (an art deco favorite) satin wood or cherrywood used too on higher end pieces: the maple is polished in its natural honey colour to a wonderful sheen and the richness of the wood grain is amazing.

 

Seating of this period would be fully upholstered with fully sprung seats and webbed backs on sofas and armchairs and webbed seats on dining chairs – interestingly you can still find sofas that are stuffed with the original straw that used to make the seats.

You can probably break Swedish Biedermeier down into 3 sections.

 

You have the Swedish ‘country’ biedermeir produced by local artisans for the country merchants and gentry. This has more of a close relationship to Swedish country furniture in general with more curvaceous but simple lines, less use of carvings, ormulu and gilt and quieter less expensive veneers – mostly birch, elm and other locally produced figured woods.

 

Then you have ‘borgeouis’ biedermeier where the owners were wealthier and used better quality veneers and finishes to show off their new status together with a bit more carved and ormulu detailing but still quite utilitarian and restrained compared to the earller pieces.

 

Finally you have the top end biedermeier of the upper classes where expense was no option and so the highest grades of figured veneers we used in more extravagant finishes.

 

You find specific shapes and textures dominating Swedish Biedermeier like the universally loved ‘napoleonic hat’ shape of the chair backs used on the dining and carver chairs, the romantic classicism of ormulu decorated posts and pillars on sofas, chest of drawers and chiffoniers or the gently curving arms of biedermeier sofas and armchairs.