A Matter of Style Activity: Furniture Design
Illinois State Board of Education Goals and Standards addressed:
Visual Art: 27: Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present.
Social Science: 18.A: Compare characteristics of culture as reflected in the arts and traditions.
Purpose : students will recognize traditional elements of design (shape, ornament, motif, or decoration)
on furniture to be viable today as a medium of expression in our environment.
Objective : After viewing Nineteenth Century Furniture, the students will design a piece of furniture by
incorporating three design elements from a style of nineteenth-century furniture into an original design
Grade Level: 4-8
Time Required: one class period
Illinois State Museum Web site used: http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/ms.html and
Materials : sketch paper for ideas, drawing paper, pencil, illustrated glossary from A Matter of Style
Web module or the label drawings of the furniture pieces (pdfs)
Motivation : Review with the students the six styles of nineteenth-century furniture that are featured in
Nineteenth Century Furniture. Discuss why they like or dislike certain styles. Ask them to differentiate
the six styles with descriptive adjectives big, curvy, old-fashioned, artistic and tell what elements
make them fit these descriptions.
Procedure :Pass out copies of the glossary and remind students how to relate the illustrations in it to the
online images or printouts of the images of the furniture (post them on the board for reference).
Students need to keep in mind is that they are to choose their favorite style, then pick three
design elements or ornaments from this style. They will use these three elements or motifs in their
furniture design, which does NOT otherwise have to look like nineteenth-century furniture (e.g., a
plastic chair with embossed roses and cut-outs of tracery on it reflecting the Rococo Style).
They can choose modern materials for their furniture. How do modern materials affect the
choice of ornament? They can choose any piece of furniture they want a bed, a bookcase. Students
will sketch their ideas until they get one they like (timed).
Students will transfer their sketch clearly to drawing paper (furniture should be large enough to
see the details (8" or bigger square).
Publication and Closure: each student should show and explain his or her design. From what style did
the elements come from (this could be guessed by the audience)? What elements were borrowed? From
what materials would it be made? Why did you design it the way you did?
Assessment: the piece of furniture should clearly incorporate three design elements from one
style of nineteenth-century furniture from A Matter of Style or its sources.
A Matter of Style: 19th Century Furniture Activity: Furniture Design