A marriage made in heaven... for furniture

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Thinking about my son’s wedding next week made me think of marriage, and then I thought about marriage in relation to furniture.

A “marriage” is the term used to describe two or even three-part case furniture that has been “made up” from different pieces, often of a similar date. Most frequently seen on bureau cabinets and bureau bookcases, but also on larger bookcases and American highboys, marriages are usually betrayed by differences in the colour, grain and quality of the timber, particularly on the sides.

Many larger items of case furniture have spent some of their lives disassembled, and uneven exposure to sunlight can cause huge variations in colour. As a rule, the backboards on genuine pieces should closely resemble one another, both in the timber used and in constructions used. Documented furniture often displays panelled tops and planked bases. Similarly, while secondary woods were always employed for backboards hidden behind drawers, or cupboard doors in the base, those of the top of a bookcase or bureau were intended to be seen, and are therefore made of more exotic timbers. However drawers in both sections should display the same constructional characteristics.

Married pieces are often out of proportion.The junction of the top and base sections may not fit tightly. On veneered furniture, a marriage may be apparent when the top section is removed. A genuine piece will display a stylistic union with identical decorative embellishments.