Phyfe changed his furniture style as his career progressed. His work can be divided into three different periods: the Adam-Sheraton period from 1795 to about 1818, the American Empire period from 1818 to 1830, and the "butcher furniture" period from 1830 to 1847. The quality of Phyfe's craftsmanship along with his skills at proportioning, his creation of elegant lines, and his choice of superior wood all helped to establish him as having much influence over the Federal Period-America's patriotic interpretation of late 18th and early 19th century European design.
Regardless of what style was being created, Phyfe was always mindful of quality. The Duncan Phyfe workshop used only the finest woods. Phyfe’s top choice for high-quality wood was his use of reddish mahogany from Cuba and Santo Domingo. This wood was greatly favored by Phyfe at the beginning of his career, and he has been noted as paying as much as $1,000 for a single mahogany log from Santo Domingo. However, after 1830 much of his furniture was made of rosewood. Walnut, satinwood and maple are some of the other types of wood one might find in a Phyfe creation.
Much of Phyfe's fame as a cabinetmaker was based on his artistic use of veneers. His other chief decorative devices were turning, reeding, and carving. His name is attached to a large number of various styles of furniture including double pedestal banquet tables, window benches, central pedestal drop leaf breakfast tables, Martha Washington sewing stands, window benches, and lyre back chairs. Decorative carving, turning and form motifs found in his furniture include reeding, thunderbolts, trumpets, rosettes, acanthus leave, water leaf, palm leaf, lion's foot, dog's foot, eagle wings, drapery swags, wheat ears, the saber leg, urn turned posts, curved or diagonal cross bars on chair backs and the lyre.
Because of this wide range of styling and techniques used, his shop is thought to have greatly influenced the aesthetic interests of local patrons in New York City. During the 1840s, his shop eventually transitioned to produce wares in the Late Grecian, Rococo and Gothic Revival styles.