When called to describe an old piece of furniture, styles like Victorian and Mid-Century Modern probably come to mind, while Biedermeier certainly doesn't. Biedermeier was a prominent 19th century mainland furniture movement that was born out of a growing middle class's new lifestyle needs. Delicate but refined, Biedermeier furniture is a type of well-crafted antique furniture you'd be lucky to find.
Biedermeier Furniture and Its Unique Origins
You can't separate Biedermeier furniture from its cultural context, since what was happening in central Europe directly led to its development. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, central Europe sought to reenter a peacetime. Trade and business started thriving again, and a burgeoning middle class emerged.
Yet, this middle class wanted to show off their new lifestyles through an upscale, classy aesthetic. This lightly adorned, refined decorative style is a far cry from what would surface across the English Channel (*cough* those 'more-is-more' Victorians *cough*). Specifically in Germany, this new class of furniture buyer, with their own unique lifestyles, prompted the Biedermeier style to develop.
How to Identify Antique Biedermeier Furniture
Biedermeier furniture looks just as cool as the name sounds. It's sleek, unassuming, and has structured forms. Don't expect to find flashy tassels, bright-colored upholstery, or painted accents on this furniture. Basically, it's the perfect kind of furniture style for a sumptuous minimalist.
Some of the more common characteristics you can find in Biedermeier furniture are:
- Clean, well-articulated lines
- Multi-functional pieces
- Geometric shapes
- Lighter native woods like ash, oak, and cherry
- Veneer inlays
As the Biedermeier style changed over time, some of these conventional characteristics shifted. This makes identifying late-Biedermeier furniture a bit more difficult. For example, these crisp lines began to give way to round curves towards the end of the period.
Common Biedermeier Pieces
Because of this inward focus on the home, Biedermeier furniture was built to be practical and serve an actual purpose. It's the opposite of art for art's sake. So, when looking for potential antique Biedermeier furniture, pay close attention to these pieces:
- Chest o' drawers
- Side tables
- Writing desks
- Dining room tables
- Dining room chairs with mushroom-like backs
How Much Is Antique Biedermeier Furniture Worth?
Antique furniture, on the whole, is extremely valuable. It's hard to come by, is expensive to transport, and is often tossed out in favor of the latest trends. That being said, you can find authentic Biedermeier style furniture pieces for a few thousand dollars.
The real money lies in the Austrian-made Biedermeier pieces. Central Europe manufactured a ton of Biedermeier-style furniture over the course of the early to mid-19th century. And while it's technically authentic, it's not quite the real thing. Think of it like a true Thomas Chippendale piece versus something made in the Chippendale style. For example, this Austrian cherry daybed from around the 1830s is currently listed on 1st Dibs for $38,000.
Similarly, the older the Biedermeier piece, the more valuable it is. Those first few decades of the style are the most desirable and sell for tens of thousands at auction. Take, for instance, this pair of armchairs from around 1890 that are only listed for $2,510.16 and compare them to this single Biedermeier armchair with mint upholstery from the 1830s that's listed for $13,900.
Can You Get It Restored?
So long as you find an experienced antique furniture restorationist, then you can absolutely get your Biedermeier furniture restored. The leading restorer for authentic Biedermeier furniture is Biedermeier-Vienna, where they work to bring the antique pieces up to museum quality. Given that Biedermeier furniture is 200+ years old, we don't advise that you do any kind of substantial repairs on your own.
Let's Bring Simplicity Back
Like so many other things in history, the simple things often go overlooked. The furniture movements people recognize most today are flashy, flamboyant, and highly decorative. Although Biedermeier's vision was decidedly less fussy, it deserves its own time in the spotlight. Instead of picking up the first velvet Victorian parlor couch you find, consider investing in one of these Austrian pieces instead.