The History of Furniture: Middle Ages

We all live in the present and we plan for the future – but how do we understand where we’re going and what the progress looks like? To know exactly where you’re going, you first need to understand where you have come from. For that, you need an appreciation of history. To continue where we left off, in this article we will discuss the middle ages where it began in 426 when Rome fell and lasted until 1453. With the collapse of the Roman Empire during the 4th–5th centuries, Europe sank into a period in which little furniture, except the most basic, was used such as chairs, stools, benches, and primitive chests were the most common items.

Several centuries were to pass before the invading Teutonic peoples evolved forms of furniture that approached the Roman standard of domestic equipment. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages. Population decline, counter urbanization, the collapse of centralized authority, invasions, and mass migrations of tribes, which had begun in Late Antiquity, continued in the Early Middle Ages. So What was life like in the early Middle Ages? 

Life In The Middle Ages - The History of Furniture Middle Ages, Kaliuda Gallery Bali

Life In The Middle Ages | Source:

Although we often see and think of pictures of large castles when we think of the Middle Ages, most people lived in small one or two-room homes. The majority of people living during the Middle Ages lived in the country and worked as farmers to the local lord who owned a manor or a castle. The local peasants would work for the landlord. Their homes were very crowded and they usually slept in the same room. In the country, the family animals, such as a cow may also live inside the home. The home was usually dark, smoky from the fire, and also uncomfortable. 

Early medieval Europe was a place of unrest; the medieval era was a time when not only nations but also lords of the manor fought for supremacy and battled to establish boundaries and kingdoms. Medieval history abounds with struggles between countries, between rival barons, and between neighbors. Medieval life was uncertain, and families were often on the move: fleeing from conflict, or traveling to lend support to the warlord of their choice. Journeying from one dark, draughty castle or medieval manor from one to another, their possessions needed to be portable, and needed to provide maximum protection from the bleak northern European winters.

Furniture in Middle Ages

As we said earlier, life was very difficult in the Early Middle Ages, and the furniture of this time period reflected that. Furniture, which was designed as functional and portable rather than beautiful, was related mainly to the bedroom and kitchen. In addition, most of the furniture in these houses had to do with eating and sleeping (or better yet, both) because that was what was necessary for life.

Medieval Chest - The History of Furniture Middle Ages, Kaliuda Gallery Bali

Medieval Chest |Source:


Medieval furniture was primarily made of oak since it was easy to obtain, strong, and durable. Perhaps the most important piece of medieval furniture was the chest or coffer. Chests were originally made from hollow tree trunks banded with iron, hence the origin of the modern word ‘trunk’. A type of chest known as the hutch could be used for packing household possessions when traveling, but it was also used as a seat, a desk, a table, and a couch for sleeping purposes. While the chest itself is a box, you guys might be questioning what’s a coffer? Now usually a large strong box with a secure convex lid is called a chest, then a coffer is a strongbox usually used to put money or other valuables. There’s really no big difference between them in our opinion. 


In the middle age, a chair long symbolized authority or a mark of honour, and even a large house might possess only chairs for the lord and his wife and perhaps another for a distinguished visitor; the use of the word chairman is a modern reflection of this medieval custom.

Medieval Chairs - The History of Furniture Middle Ages, Kaliuda Gallery Bali

Medieval Chairs | Source:

Early chairs constructed of turned spindles, seen in Romanesque sculpture, have already been mentioned. Later there were two main types. One was a variety of folding chairs, with an X-shaped frame, made of both wood and metal, the seat and back consisting of rectangular strips of some strong fabric or leather. Eventually there evolved a heavier type of chair. This was basically a development of the chest, and in many cases, the seat was hinged, allowing the base to be used for storage. Paneling, often carved with linenfold and sometimes with other Gothic motifs, was used on the back, arms, and base. Many of these chairs had exaggeratedly high backs terminating in elaborately carved canopies; some were freestanding, while others had their backs fixed to the wall in the manner of a church stall. Settles were also used for seating during the 15th century. Seating was a bit of a problem for the peasants. They sometimes had benches or stools, which could also be used for sleeping. In richer houses, you might find a chair or two. Around this time, chairs that could be folded were popular, as they could be moved easily from place to place.

Miniature reproduction of a medieval bed - The History of Furniture Middle Ages, Kaliuda Gallery Bali

Miniature reproduction of a medieval bed | Source:


Beds, which started out as simple boards, evolved during this period to the four-post beds we know today. Mattresses, for those fortunate enough to have them, were stuffed with straw. Blankets made of wool or sometimes fur were used to conserve warmth. Curtains, which were initially used around beds for warmth only, became elaborate affairs in the more noble households. Medieval design not only can be found in furniture but also in medieval art and architecture that can be found in churches and cathedrals. In Kaliuda Gallery, you can transform your home into your very own medieval kingdom. Just by customizing your furniture and home decoration. Achieve that perfect authentic medieval home with Kaliuda Gallery, the best teak wood furniture supplier in Bali- Indonesia.


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