Thomas Chippendale – A Brief History.
Chippendale furniture is the name given to furniture designed by a master cabinet maker called Thomas Chippendale. He was perhaps England’s most famous and influential furniture designer of all time. Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley, Yorkshire, England in 1718 and lived to the age of 61 dying of tuberculosis in November 1779. He is buried at St. Martin’s Place in London.
Thomas Chippendale was the son of a carpenter and his designs can be described as ‘in the rococo style’ which is exquisitely ornate but at the same time functional items of furniture. He also included Chinese and Gothic emblems in the construction of traditional Georgian pieces. His great ability was in taking these existing styles and incorporating them into traditional furniture items. He famously did this with chairs and tables with ornately carved legs.
Many of his designs survive today and you will see numerous examples of his styling in this website of which one is this Chippendale side table, although they are often adaptations and not necessarily true replicas. True replicas can be crafted however with our desire for less ornate and elaborate design to fit our modern lifestyles the designs have been somewhat tempered.
In 1754 he published his great work: The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director.
This directory became and still is a very influential piece of work. So much so that the name Chippendale can now be related to a whole body of 18th century furniture. Indeed for those not familiar with the furniture industry can be forgiven for not realising that Chippendale was originally the name of a designer and not a design of furniture although such was his influence it has now become so.
The wood of choice he used was mahogany. The reason for this is that not only is mahogany a hardwood but it has the wonderful property of a very close grain which means that when cut with a saw the cut is very clean. This make up of mahogany also allows for very delicate and precise carving. The carvings produced in mahogany can be extremely elaborate something that would be very much more difficult to produce using a wood such as oak which has a much wider grain. This mahogany was imported from South America. Today we would frown on this because the wood was from tropical rain forests however mahogany is still extensively used to make this style of furniture (antique reproduction) the mahogany wood being derived from controlled plantations in countries such as Indonesia. Indeed at AKD Furniture, our supplier now (since June 2013) has been granted certification as a supplier of legally sourced mahogany.
Much of Thomas Chippendale’s life is a mystery as none of his early years is recorded however it is know that he married and moved his very successful furniture showrooms and workshops to St Martin’s Lane, London from Yorkshire where he lived and worked until his death.