Thomas Chippendale – The Furniture Trend Setter

Thomas Chippendale – The Furniture Trend Setter
November 14, 2016 Melissa Davies
Thomas Chippendale Chairs, taken from the first edition of The Director.

Thomas Chippendale – The Furniture Trend Setter

Thomas Chippendale was a British cabinet and furniture designer of the mid-18th Century. His styles are best classed as being English Rococo and Gothic Chinese. There have been many re works of Chippendale furniture over the centuries as it was, and still is, one of the leading styles in historic furniture.

The poet James Thomson (1700-1748) described Great Britain as being ‘cold, dark, dull, a dirty country where there is nothing but money’. The 18th Century saw an increase in the luxury market, calling for new and interesting furnishings. This boom coincided with Thomas Chippendale’s publication of ‘The Gentleman& Cabinet Makers Director’ in 1754. A book full of Rococo and Chinese furniture designs that was to be the making of Chippendale. This Directory was a ‘bible’ for many furniture makers and resulted in Chippendale furniture becoming so well recognised that the style was called ‘Chippendale’. This was a first at the time, as many designs had been named after the reigning monarch, i.e Victorian style, Georgian style.

Thomas Chippendale chairs, taken from the first edition of The Director

Thomas Chippendale chairs, taken from the first edition of The Director

The most obvious of his styles was the Rococo, a movement of arts, interiors, sculpture and architecture that originated in Paris during the early 18th Century. This style was both a fashion and a reaction to the earlier William Kent, Palladian style which was stately in both style and proportion. The Chippendale furniture was more delicate and less flamboyant than that of the Kent style.

Chippendale furniture can be found all around the world in both the original forms, and of course, replicas. Here we have chosen some of the Chippendale finest pieces of which we at Humphries Weaving have had the privilege of working with.

Above left: Alnwick Castle Above right: Silk Damask

Above left: Alnwick Castle & Above right: Silk Damask

Above left are a set of 32 Chippendale dining chairs found at Alnwick Castle in The State Dining Room. These were restored in pure silk, forest green damask. The colour was matched to a fragment found in the house and the pattern redrawn at the Humphries Weaving Studio based on a 19th Century design found at Alnwick Castle.

Above right is the dusty pink, silk damask that was used to upholster a suite of Chippendale furniture commissioned by HM The Queen for heads of state. The first set was given to President Jimmy Carter at The White House, whilst another can be found at No.10 Downing Street.

Above left: The Couch Bed & Above right: The State Bed

Above left: The Couch Bed & Above right: The State Bed

To the left is The Couch Bed that can be found at Bolling Hall, Bradford. The bed hangings have been restored with pure silk, crimson Damask which can also be found on the walls at Bolling Hall. Interestingly, the Chippendale Couch Bed was originally found at Harewood House, but later sold to Bolling hall.

The State Bed to the right can be found at Harewood House, Yorkshire and has been restored with a green silk damask.

Thomas Chippendale’s ‘The Gentleman & Cabinet Makers Director’ was first published in 1754 and has since been re published, the latest being in the year 2000. A classic book that does not date, much like the furniture itself. Starting life out as a carpenter in Yorkshire, Chippendale’s designs took the country by storm and can still be seen up and down the country today.