In the 18th century, the ‘big three’ furniture makers are undoubtedly Thomas Chippendale, Thomas Sheraton, and George Hepplewhite.
Thomas Chippendale is probably the most famous of all. He was a London-based cabinetmaker and furniture designer. Styles ranged from English with deep carving, elaborate Anglicized Rococo, Chinese with lattice and lacquer, and Gothic with pointed arches, quatrefoils, and fretted legs. In later years he adopted the neoclassical style. His father was a carpenter and probably the person who got Thomas started in the trade.
He was the first cabinetmaker to publish a book of his designs, which was called The Knight and the Cabinetmaker’s Director, published in 1754. This influenced many other cabinetmakers and illustrated almost all types of household furniture from the mid-18th century.
Chippendale was an interior designer and cabinetmaker. He advised on soft furnishings and the general look a room should have. His work was desired by the rich and famous and he was frequently commissioned by the aristocracy.
He died of tuberculosis in 1779, but has been commemorated with a full-size statue in the V&A Museum and a commemorative plaque can be found in Otley, Yorkshire (his likely birthplace) outside the former Prince Henry Primary School. His son of the same name went into the family business.
Thomas Sheraton also worked in London from 1790 as a professional consultant and professor of architecture and design.
His designs were based on classical architecture and can be categorized as neoclassical. They were often made of inlaid satin wood. While he was a designer, there is no evidence that he created the pieces himself. In reality, it can only be credited with one piece: a glass-fronted bookcase that bears the TS stamp inside a drawer.
Sheraton also published an influential work, “The Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book,” which became available to the public in 1791, which greatly influenced English and American design. He also published “The Cabinet Dictionary” in 1803, explaining the techniques of making furniture and upholstery. His last book was volume 1 of “Encyclopedia of the cabinetmaker, upholsterer, and general artist” in 1805. He died in 1806.
George Hepplewhite is the last of the ‘big three’. He also worked in London, but as a man, very little is known about him.
Its name is known for a sleek and elegant furniture style and, in particular, for a large shield shape on the backs of the chairs. No parts made by him or his company are believed to exist.
He died in 1786 and in 1788, his widow Alice published “The Cabinetmaker’s and Upholsterer’s Guide”, with some 300 of his designs. Some claim that George Hepplewhite is actually just a pseudonym for Alice because it is very difficult to find evidence of the man.
Hepplewhite’s designs only really found fame after the date of his death.
Chippendale and his contemporaries were excellent furniture designers and influenced cabinetmakers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Your designs and posts are so important that they will continue to influence people as furniture design evolves over time.