Antique Dining Room Furniture: A Short History

A group or family dining experience was an important feature in the wealthiest homes of Georgian Britain, with contemporary sources describing many hours spent around the dining table, and the importance of presentation in both the food and the fixtures!

The dining room was an elegant and well fitted room in the Georgian period and was adorned with quality pieces of furniture that were both stylised and highly functional.


A dumb waiter could often be found to the side of the dining room. There are two forms of furniture known as a ‘dumb waiter’ (neither to be confused with the mechanical food lift). The Georgian iteration had revolving circular tiers on a column and would hold crockery and could also be used in the drawing room. The later rectangular dumb waiter with long, rectangular shelves was also used to hold dishes and food prior to it being served. You can see our range of dumb waiters and buffets/serving furniture here.

The dining table also had several pieces on or around it which helped the dining experience run smoothly.

Antique Coasters

Cheese coasters were used (as their name suggests) to store/hold cheese on the dining table. Their boat shaped design with scooped out centres accommodated a series of cheeses.

Wine coasters (like the one to the right) were sometimes made in mahogany and were fitted with bun feet or leather castors, which allowed the wine to be manouevred easily around the dining table without leaving any scratches. Silver or silver plated wine coasters were more common than their mahogany counterparts.

Antique Drinking Accessories

Sitting alongside the table would be a wine cooler or cellarette, with a lead lined interior which filled with ice from the ice house, kept the champagne and wine chilled. The rectangular, lockable ‘liquor case’ or guarduvin were also used to store spirits.

A common feature of Edinburgh-made Georgian brass bound wine coolers were open fretwork quarter brackets at the top of the legs and a particular inlaid design. The sarcophagus shaped wine cooler later became fashionable, and its low height allowed it to fit beneath a sideboard.

And last but no means least – where to keep your expensive and desirable silverware?Knife boxes and cutlery boxes were only owned by wealthy families in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and were often in the style of the most important designers of the day including Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Adams. They were generally made in pairs, with one placed either end of a sideboard. For those wanting to display their silverware engraved with the family crest, the lid could be left open.

It’s worth noting that most of these dining room fixtures would only be found in the wealthiest Georgian homes, as the majority of society would have instead cooked and dined around the kitchen fireplace. These Georgian dining room pieces still serve a practical purpose today, as well as being important historical reminders of the fine art of dining.

Empire Revival Antiques: A Short History

Empire Revival Writing Table

What Is The Empire Style?

The Empire Style (1800-1815) originated in the French court of Napoleon I. This opulent style often used a combination of Neoclassical ornamentation and symbols with Napoleonic motifs, and greatly influenced the furniture, arts, and textiles of the day. It is often considered the second stage of the Neoclassical movement.

As archaeologists brought back studies and etchings from Egypt, these designs were used on ormolu and brass mounts that were used to embellish pieces of furniture, like this desk chair (fauteuil de bureau), circa 1805-1808, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. A similar chair was used by Napoleon in the Palais des Tuileries, Paris.

Biedermeier Waterfall Shelves / Whatnot

The Empire style then carried over to other courts across Europe, and was then adapted to the prevalent regional designs of the time. For example, it merged with certain Regency features in Great Britain, and corresponded with the Biedermeier style (as seen in this what not) in German speaking regions.

The style was revived in the late 19th century, and is often referred to as ‘Empire Revival’.

That was widely adapted by British designers, with the Empire Room from Kinloch Castle, Isle of Rum (off the west coast of Scotland) showing how influential this style became.

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle was built by Sir George Bullough in 1897 as a hunting lodge, and was used to host lavish entertainment. It still retains its original Edwardian fittings with most of the furniture supplied by the famous cabinetmaking firm of James Shoolbred and Co, London.

Empire Revival Mahogany and Ormolu Mounted Jardiniere

We have several pieces from the Empire Room of Kinloch Castle in stock, including this jardiniere which shows the opulence and classical influence of the Empire Revival style across its ormolu mounts.

You can see more of our Empire Revival pieces here.

Antique Stools: A Short History

Antique Pair of Rosewood and Leopard Print Top Stools

Antique stools may seem a common feature in homes today, but their history goes a lot further back than you may think!

A stool is simply defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a seat without a back or arms, raised from the ground on a series of legs. With ancient origins dating back to the Egyptians and early Greeks and Romans, they originally had either a folding frame with a fabric or skin seat, or a fixed frame with a solid seat in various materials.

This exceptional Egyptian example dates from c. 1991-1450 BC and was excavated by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter at Dira Abu el-Naga between 1907-1914. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection, New York. It also shows how stools have not greatly changed over time.

We still see similar features on stools today, although much more refined! This set of three Orkney stools also has a woven seat with a classic, simple frame. They also benefit from having stretchers connecting the legs, for extra stability.

Stools with upholstered or stuffed seats became popularised by the late seventeenth century, coinciding with the production of standard joint stools (which were small rectangular stools with legs joined with stretchers).

Eighteenth century books including Robert Manwaring’s Cabinet and Chair-Maker’s Real Friend and Companion (circa 1765) even detail how certain stools were specifically designed for women with ‘ladies dressing stools’ to accompany ‘ladies dressing chairs’.

Other stools were also designed for certain activities including music or piano stools, duet stools, footstools and barstools. We always have a large selection of these in our warehouse, and whilst we have several recently re-upholstered in quality leathers and fabrics, we can also provide quotes if you wish to have them upholstered in a material of your choice.

Antique Canterburies: A Short History

Antique Canterbury - late George IV example

What is a canterbury?

The canterbury is an 18th century piece of furniture of British design, however its exact origins are a little unclear. There were two forms of ‘canterbury’ made at that time and both were associated with the Archbishop of Canterbury (they may have been designed for him).

A ‘canterbury’ can refer to either:

  1. A low serving stand on castors which would usually sit next to a dining table – used for storing plates at one side, and cutlery at the other end.
  2. The alternative form of canterbury that we best know today was introduced in the 1780s, and is often now used as a magazine rack.

It would have originally held sheet music or music books.

Antique canterbury

These canterburies were made from the finest woods available at the time, initially mahogany and then later rosewood, satinwood and walnut.

Interestingly, there is no single, definitive form to these music related canterburies as they have changed over time. They initially had elegant but simple designs with fine turned spindles, finials and splats, some with horizontal and others with curved top rails and most having a shallow drawer beneath.

Later, during the Regency period some had decorative features like carved wreaths or lyres. During the Victorian era many more elaborate styles of canterburies were made with carving, fretwork and inlays – and sometimes with whatnots added above.

An antique canterbury is also a highly collectable piece – with examples found in major collections including: The Royal Collection Trust , and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

You can see more of our range of canterburies here.

Antique Games Tables: A Short History

Antique games and card tables are some of the most diversely styled tables. Often their designs draw from the most favoured styles of that period – and we have several in stock which show this variety.

Earlier examples like this Georgian mahogany triple-top games table from circa 1760, have a simple solid mahogany top with curved edges, over cabriole legs. It opens to two playing surfaces; one with an inlaid backgammon board, and the other which is felt-lined for card playing.

Pair of Card Tables in the Manner of Bruce and Burns

In contrast, there are exceptionally decorative examples of Georgian games tables, like the pair you can see here. They have striking radial veneers, and finely inlaid mahogany and penwork to their tops, friezes and legs. This pair of tables have a provenance of Coul House, Perthshire and by family repute, they may have originally been owned by the Earls of Cork, or the Mulocks, of County Offaly, Ireland.

Nearly 60 years later, we see many new design features of games tables, including brass mounts, shaped bases and combined uses – with games surfaces to the tops and work (sewing) boxes beneath. Regency games/work tables like this one were neat-sized and readily moveable, and were used by women for games as well as embroidery.

There’s been a surge in the popularity of indoor games over the past few months for obvious reasons!

Antique Regency Scumbled Games Table

Antique games tables come in such a variety of sizes, styles and prices that they would make a fantastic addition to any home, and could even be used as side or hall tables.

This post was originally from our weekly newsletter – which you can subscribe to here.

Festive Opening Hours 2020

Following the latest Scottish Government guidelines, we will be closing our warehouse doors on Thursday 24th December (Christmas Eve) at 1pm until further notice.

However, we will continue trading online, and will be regularly updating our website. Our couriers will also be operating as normal, so we can deliver our antiques near and far! If you have any enquiries (trade or private) over this period please don’t hesitate to email us, or John will be available on 07836 283 669.

We look forward to seeing you all soon, and wish you a safe and happy Christmas and New Year – from the team at Georgian Antiques.

Antique Boulle Furniture: A Short History

Antique Boulle Clock

The term ‘Boulle’ was taken from the surname of it’s most skilled artisan André Charles Boulle (1642–1732). Boulle was a cabinetmaker, sculptor and gilder to King Louis XIV of France, and from 1672 he was granted the royal privilege of living in the Palais du Louvre.

‘Boulle’ work refers to the practice of overlaying furniture with a thin layer or tortoiseshell that is inlaid with brass and pewter in opulent patterns and elaborate designs, as shown in the Louis XV style boulle clock, circa 1870 (above).

Boulle work, although requiring great skill and expense, became such a fashionable means of finishing furniture that its use continued through to the 18th and 19th centuries. Whilst Boulle’s original work resides in the most important international collections and museums (including the Royal Collection, Chateau de Versailles, and the Rijksmuseum) you can still find pieces of Boulle work by later cabinet-makers which are often of similar quality (especially as so many copied Boulle’s technique and style).

Antique Boulle Card Table Furniture

19th century pieces like this serpentine front games table capture the essence of André Charles Boulle’s work perfectly; with classical designs in brass inlay to the top and on the exhibition quality figurehead ormolu mounts. The red tortoiseshell background is accentuated by ebonised sections of the exterior, and it opens to a baize-lined interior.

You can see our range of Boulle furniture here.

Whytock and Reid Furniture: A Short History

Established in 1807 by Edinburgh businessman Richard Whytock, the furniture-making firm became ‘Whytock and Reid’ when he formed a partnership with John Reid in 1876. If you’ve lived in Edinburgh, you might have seen their workshop based in Sunbury House, Belford Mews (near Dean Village).

Whytock earned his first warrant from Queen Victoria in 1838 and the recognition of their craftsmanship continued until their doors closed in 2004. Their clients were from various walks of life; from the Royal Family and some of the largest public projects across Scotland, to country houses and family homes.

Whytock and Reid also collaborated with prolific architect and furniture designer Sir Robert Lorimer for over 30 years – you can find out more about the Lorimer influence here.

This marble top secretaire a abbatant by Whytock and Reid has all of their classic qualities and is one of the finest examples we have in our warehouse. Circa 1900, it is made in the Louis XVI style and retains the original Whytock & Reid locks by Langebearg & Co, Birmingham, and has a receipt for alterations from Whytock & Reid on 25 October 1955.

We are proud to have one of the biggest collections of Whytock and Reid furniture in the UK. You can see their full range in our dedicated category.

Antique Mirrors: A Short History

Antique Mirror Chippendale Style

Antique mirrors can be one of the most interesting features of any modern home – and they are also incredibly diverse! The mirror is not a modern invention but has instead been used since ancient times, from Egyptian mirrors in polished bronze (2900BC), to Chinese bronze mirrors dating as early as 2000BCE. The complete history of mirror production is fascinating but incredibly complex, and so for brevity we will start at the 15th and 16th century.

At that time, there was a large divide between mirrors of quality versus quantity – from the expensive and competitive pursuit of ‘crystalline’ glass between Germany and the Venetian Republic, to the cheaper, inferior small steel ‘mirrors’ which could be purchased from street vendors.

Throughout the 16th century, the Venetian mirror was considered the epitome of (costly!) fashion, especially in France – and King Francois I purchased several adorned with gold and precious stones. This Venetian technique used glass with a metallic backing and it became a practice adopted by craftsmen in London and Paris by the middle of the 17th century. These mirrors were a popular addition to room furnishings by this time – and their frame also became an important consideration. These ranged from painted, carved, gilded and ornament decorated.

Certain types of mirrors were also designed to suit the architecture of homes of the time, especially overmantel mirrors – created to fill the empty space between the mantelpiece and the ceiling. Girandole mirrors (like the one on the right) emerged in the 19th century and served a double purpose: with a convex sheet of glass in a circular frame, and candle arms attached, the candlelight would be reflected and illuminate the room.

We keep in stock as much variety as possible with these mirrors – and lately the more ornate, gilt overmantels have proved a popular choice.

For those wanting something a little smaller and narrower, we also have pier mirrors which were designed to fit on a ‘pier’ space (for example, a wall between two windows), and often above pier cabinets.

The Mirror: A History, Sabine Melchior-Bonnet, 1 February 2002
‘Mirror (Optics)’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, (


Easter Opening Hours 2019

It’s been a busy lead up to the Easter break this year for us at Georgian Antiques, but rest assured we will be open as usual!

Feel free to drop us an email or call in if you have any further queries!