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A Victorian Parlor Set

In the Victorian period, custom furniture shops and factories often made furniture in sets-parlor, dining room, and bedroom. The number of pieces in a parlor set ranged from a sofa, armchair, a lady chair with the low small arms that hoop skirts required, and four side chairs, to the more extensive kind that included a matching center table with a cartouche-shaped white marble top, an ottoman of the same height and size as the seat of the large armchair, a whatnot, and small slant-front desk.

It is rather unusual to find one of these sets complete today. But anyone who has a sofa and armchair or other pieces and wants to complete it, can do so. Victorian furniture is still plentiful enough so that patience and repeated visits to antique shops in one's vicinity will, in time, result in the other matching pieces at moderate prices.

Some of the furniture was simple and restrained in design. Some sets were heavily laden with carving in the form of bunches of grapes and leaves or flowers and foliage. As a rule the pieces with less ornate design are earlier. Many sets have the French type of cabriole leg as well as the continuous grooved molding, known as "finger molding," in their framework.

Haircloth was the original upholstery of about ninety percent of the early Victorian furniture made in the United States. There was nothing like it for long wear, as is demonstrated by the number of pieces still to be found with original upholstery in fair to good condition. But there is no denying that it is would have been unconfortable, slippery, and prickly.

Therefore, for present day use, the most effective material for re-upholstering such pieces is a satin, silk, in a plain color, preferably red or old gold. It is a good idea also to omit the tufting of the backs since it creates a fussy appearance. The same can be said for upholstery material with a figured pattern. The curves and carvings of the walnut framework provide design enough.



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