The cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale is one of the best cabinet makers and designers of his time. ‘Chippendale’ usually refers to an age rather than the man. This age was from around 1730 to 1780
Either Thomas Chippendale or other furniture makers produced some of the finest antique mahogany furniture ever constructed and seen. In the first year of the classical revival in England was around the 1760s, when the grand tour influenced designs of new houses, interiors and there furnishings. Although mahogany was the main wood used at this time, the finest court furniture was veneered in satinwood – the elegant light colour of this wood was ideal for classical the revival pieces. Robert Adam (Adams furniture) became the architect and designer most associated with this period and his success in 1762 when he was made architect to the king. Other names of this period are Hepplewhite and Sheraton.
There was a superb cabinet maker in Lancaster, Lancashire, who was Robert Gillow (Gilows of Lancaster or later known as Waring and Gillows) and was working as a cabinet maker as well as an importer of rum. He imported has timber at the same time as his rum (he was very entrepreneurial) and then sent the finished pieces of furniture by sea to London, thereby avoiding the high labour costs of the capital.
It is quite possible that much of Adam’s furniture was made in Lancaster as Robert Adam subcontracted Gillow’s.
A huge amount of smaller pieces of furniture was now being made including knife boxes, antique occasional tables, writing tables, bedside tables, work tables and much more. Smaller pieces had now become necessities in the changing English way of life.
The main area of the English Regency style included the scroll ended Grecian couch and the use of animal heads on chair arms.
By 1805 a new form of furniture in the style of ancient Greek had appeared, some pieces were chairs in which a horizontal curved band of wood supported the small of the back, and legs took on a curved appearance in the distinctive Regency sabre shape. After the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 chairs often had one or more horizontal back supports carved in a rope design, supposedly as a reference to the sea and the victory.
In 1808 George Smith brought to the middle classes the fashions created by the prince of Wales, and it was at this time that rosewood, with its distinctive grain, became very popular. By the 1820s decoration was becoming more ornate with intricate brass inlays and veneered cross banding.
The period from the 1830 to the 1870s led to several styles of furniture some new and some copied from earlier designs.
Enormous economic, social and technological changes were taking place and for the first time modern machinery was used by the manufacturing tycoons to make furniture rivalling the work of cabinet makers and hand carvers.
Rococo, Gothic, Louis XIV, Elizabethan were popular revival styles of the period.
The series of Great Exhibitions, beginning with the 1851Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, encouraged both hand carvers and machinists to attempt to work on a massive scale.
In reaction to the often heavy appearance of furnishings of the mid-Victorian period William Morris created the setting for the Arts and Crafts movement (Arts and Crafts was about simple lines and quality furniture). In 1888 the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society held its first exhibition. The most important members of the society included Voysey, Ashbee and Mackmurdo.
When the Edwardian era arrived, most Edwardian furniture was machine made, lots of earlier styles were copied like Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton and was mostly of a very good quality.