Duncan Phyfe furniture can be identified by its graceful, curved lines and its excellent proportions, as well as the high-quality wood that the Scottish-born cabinetmaker used. He was especially fond of the best mahogany from Santo Domingo and Cuba.
Phyfe used mahogany as both the main wood and for veneers, but he would also use such expensive woods as black walnut. He also used rosewood and satinwood as veneers.
The furniture of Duncan Phyfe had a strong French influence that can be seen in his chairs with saber legs and curving backs. His sofas often had scrolled ends and richly carved frames made with the finest wood and gold leaf. The legs often terminated in paws or claws that could be carved out of wood or hammered out of brass. Phyfe was especially fond of brass hardware, which could be seen in his knobs, lion-head ring pulls and oval back plates.
Certain motfis are also diagnostic with Duncan Phyfe furniture. He was especially fond of the lyre, which was often found in chair-backs. Other motifs were acanthus leaves, arrows, circles, drapery swags and plumes. For the upholstery, Phyfe often used materials as sumptuous as his woods, such as brocade, damask or satin.