If you’re a lover of the look of antique furniture, or are thinking about bedecking your home in reproduction antique furniture, you may be intrigued to learn a little more about the periods of history behind each style. If you’d like to be able to tell your Regency from your Chippendale, your Victorian from your Edwardian, then read on for the first in our two part blog series covering furniture and its royal history.
Chippendale Furniture – 18th Century
Thomas Chippendale was an English cabinetmaker and master designer who was in vogue during the reigns of George II and George III. He achieved international fame and quickly became one of the most outstanding styles of the 18th century. His early pieces were denoted by cabriole legs with claw and ball feet, often said to be French inspired. Swirls, leaves and often the shells of the Rococo period would typically feature in his notable work.
Chippendale designs encompass three key styles: Gothic, Rococo and Chinese. All were blended into harmonious, flowing designs. But if you’d like to sum up the term Chippendale, then think, ‘English furniture of the 1750s and 1760s crafted in a modified Rococo style’. Although of course, Chippendale furniture did retain its popularity long after the 1760s.
The furniture was well known for its quality of build, with mahogany the favoured timber and walnut, cherry and maple a secondary choice. Today you’ll still find Chippendale pieces in top notch condition thanks to the excellence of craftsmanship. Fabrics were of the finest quality, rich in colour to start with but growing more subtle over the years.
Chippendale furniture ranged from tables and chairs to high boys, desks and mirrors. Reproduction antique furniture in the Chippendale style is very popular today, especially with the cabriole legs and claw and ball feet which are considered the epitome of antique style.
Regency Furniture – 19th Century
Regency, in design terms, covered the period from around 1795 through to 1837, although the ‘formal Regency Period ran from 1811 to 1820.
Introduced on the heels of the Neo-Classical era, Regency style extended through three monarchs: George III, George IV and William IV. Designs were elaborate and ornate and considered classical and neo-classical in style.
As Regency moved into its later years of around 1830 to 1837, designs started to see more curves and greater elegance in decoration. Lions’ heads, Roman gods and winged griffins became popular elaborations during this time, with the fashion of the era clearly pointing to classical Roman, Egyptian and Greek. Settees became couches once again, with elegant scrolled ends held aloft by a supreme sphinx on lion’s legs.
Mahogany was still the timber of primary choice, with brass used as embellishment and rosewood and zebrawood veneers added for striking effect.
Regency furniture was decidedly lower in height than pieces from its predecessor era. This was because during the Regency period it became the fashion to adorn walls with large paintings, so the furniture had to be lower in height to show it off. Bookcases and cabinets therefore shrunk in height, and tallboys were no more.
A Glorious Affair!
Furniture of the 18th and early 19th centuries was a glorious affair. If you fancy following suit with some reproduction pieces of your own, check out this collection. And look out for part two of this mini-series where we’ll be discovering Victorian furniture, and taking a look at the Edwardian style of the early 20th century when Art Nouveau was in vogue.