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Chippendale Furniture: History & Style

Instructor: Shenley Schenk

Shenley holds a Master's of Science in Interior Architecture as well as a LEED Green Associate Certification.

Designed to merge culture and style, Chippendale furniture is intricate and desired. Learn about the cabinet maker and characteristics of Chippendale design.

Start of Chippendale Design

Elegant, rich and unique describes the intricate design of Chippendale furniture. Chippendale furniture was created by Thomas Chippendale, a cabinet maker from London. Thomas Chippendale had a vision to combine multiple design cultures to create the much-desired Chippendale style. The style grew strong from 1750-1780 in England and American colonies. Chippendale furniture was created within the Colonial design period and overlaps with design eras such as Queen Anne.

Thomas Chippendale

Thomas Chippendale was born in the early 1700's, however, little is known about the cabinet maker until 1748, when he married. Shortly after marrying, Chippendale moved to Covent Garden where he set up shop and began production of his famous furniture. A master in trade, Chippendale published a Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director. This enabled cabinet makers to learn and gain knowledge on how to construct various furniture pieces. Thomas Chippendale was elected into the Society of Arts in 1759 for his incredible furniture design. Throughout Chippendale's career he worked with James Rannie and Thomas Haig. Together they contrasted some of the most expensive and sought-after pieces of their time. Thomas Chippendale lost his wife in 1772 and remarried in 1777. Thomas Chippendale's original pieces ended with his death in 1779.

Characteristics of Chippendale Furniture

Chippendale furniture came to life from the perfect blend of gothic, rococo, and Chinese design influence. Gothic style was incorporated through elements such as pointed arches, s-shaped curves, and wooded lattice. Broad chair seats with interlacing ribbon backs were influenced by rococo design. Chinese influence is found in fretwork design and jappaning. Although elaborate, Chippendale design is considered conservative in comparison to other English design of it's era.

Chippendale Chair
Chippendale Chair

Numerous defining characteristics can be found in Chippendale furniture. Furniture was commonly constructed of mahogany, walnut and cherry wood. As Chippendale furniture became more popular, stained maple was used to reduce cost while maintaining the intricate designs. The darker woods were left in their natural state or finished with clear coats of wax. Furniture made with maple wood was stained dark to mimic the richness of the darker woods. Only the most lavish upholstery was used to accent the beauty of the Chippendale wood designs.

Chippendale Settee
Chippendale Settee

The gothic, rococo, and Chinese influence can also be found in the design of the legs, feet, and backs of Chippendale furniture. Common furniture legs include, straight Marlborough, cabriole, curved and fluted. The trade mark foot of Chippendale furniture is the ball and claw-foot. Chair backs are adorned with ribbon and shell motifs.

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