Chippendale is a style of furniture that became popular towards the end of the 18th century, designed by English cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale – after whom the style is named. Chippendale furniture is as popular as ever today, helping people create a period elegance in their homes.
If you want to learn more about the popular style of furniture and its origins, read on.
Who was Thomas Chippendale?
Thomas Chippendale was born in the early 1700s but little more is known of his early life until he married in 1748. A few years later, he moved to the edge of Covent Garden and set up home, as well as establishing workshops where he made furniture.
In 1754, Chippendale published a collection of furniture designs called Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, which was enormously well-received by the public at the time. He was elected to the Society of Arts in 1759 and partnered with upholsterer James Rannie for a number of years until Rannie’s death, when Chippendale recruited his clerk Thomas Haig.
Chippendale married again in 1777 after the death of his first wife in 1772, and died in 1779 from tuberculosis.
Styles of Chippendale furniture
The Chippendale style is often described as being an anglicised type of Rococo, and Rococo is one of the styles Chippendale encompasses, along with Gothic and Chinese. Rococo Chippendale furniture often displays French influence, with chairs based on Louis XV designs, although usually less ostentatious. The ribbonback chair with a broad seat and cupid’s bow-style back rail is perhaps the most famous Chippendale design.
Gothic Chippendale furniture is characterised by s-shaped curves and pointed arches in the backs of chairs, while Gothic bookcases were triangular at the top and had wooden glazing bars to hold the glass in place.
Chinese Chippendale creations often included cabinets and shelves for china, and typically features pagoda-style pediments and glazing bars arranged in a fretwork design. This fretwork was also used on the edges of tea tables and on the backs and legs of chairs, often coated with lacquer.
Modern Chippendale furniture
Chippendale furniture continues to be popular in modern times as the furnishings are not only attractive and help to create an upmarket, classic feel in the home, they are also hardwearing and long-lasting. While original furniture from the 1700s is hard to come by – especially in a well-preserved form, you can invest in replica pieces made from solid mahogany that is virtually undetectable as a modern equivalent.
Mahogany is a reddish-brown hardwood that is extremely durable and ideal for carving. It resists wood rot and can be transformed into items of furniture that, with little maintenance, will last for years. You’ll find bedside tables, writing desks and dressing tables among the Chippendale furniture available, and simply need to wipe the furnishings down with a damp cloth to remove dust that has settled.
To keep your mahogany Chippendale furniture in good condition, avoid placing it near to sunlight, as this can cause the wood’s colour to fade. Similarly, furnishings should not stand near to radiators or fireplaces.
Avoid placing hot dishes directly on your Chippendale furniture, and use coasters lined underneath with felt, as other materials may scratch or damage the wood. You can also add extra shine to your furniture by giving it a regular polish when the pieces are beginning to look a little dull.