Style of furniture and interior decoration that flourished in France during the First Empire (1804–14). It corresponds to the Regency style in England. Responding to the desire of Napoleon for a style inspired by imperial Rome, the architects Charles Percier (1764–1838) and Pierre Fontaine (1762–1853) decorated his state rooms with Classical styles of furniture and ornamental motifs, supplemented by sphinxes and palm leaves to commemorate his Egyptian campaigns. The style influenced the arts (Jacques-Louis David in painting, Antonio Canova in sculpture, the Arc de Triomphe in architecture) and fashion and spread quickly throughout Europe.
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In American furniture, the Empire style was most notably exemplified by the work of New York cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Paris-trained Charles-Honoré Lannuier. Other major furniture centers renowned for regional interpretations of the American Empire style were Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Many examples of American Empire cabinetmaking are characterized by antiquities-inspired carving, gilt-brass furniture mounts, and decorative inlays such as stamped-brass banding with egg-and-dart, diamond, or Greek-key patterns, or individual shapes such as stars or circles.
The most elaborate furniture in this style was made around 1815-25, often incorporating columns with rope-twist carving, animal-paw feet, anthemion, stars, and acanthus-leaf ornamentation, sometimes in combination with gilding and vert antique (antique green, simulating aged bronze). The Red Room at the White House is a fine example of American Empire style. A simplified version of American Empire furniture, often referred to as the Grecian style, generally displayed plainer surfaces in curved forms, highly figured mahogany veneers, and sometimes gilt-stencilled decorations.
This Americanized interpretation of the Napoleonic Empire style continued in popularity in conservative regions outside the major metropolitan centers well past the mid-nineteenth century.