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Antique English Furniture

Information on Antique English Furniture is so prolific that I decided to squeeze it all down to a mini furniture guide for you.

Queen Anne (1702-1714)

Queen Anne furniture took on graceful and harmonious outlines, parquetry gave way to plain veneer and heavy carving was out of fashion. Walnut was much in use.

The cabriole (Italia: capriole- hind leg of a goat!) leg made it possible to do away with stretchers on legged furniture. Although these cabriole legs ended with hooves it was not unusual to find paw feet and even claw and ball feet.

The splat back or central panel in the form of slightly carved vases were also typical of antique english furniture of this period.

Claw and ball became popular in England after 1710. Meant to represent the claw of the imperial Chinese dragon clutching a pearl. 

Queen Anne cabriole leg

This was a reign of prosperity and with this wealth came mobility. Fashionable Young Gentlemen went off on 'grand tours' of Europe, one of the most important stops being Italy.

The very wealthy took to placing heavily carved and gilded furniture of Italian influence in their grand houses. These ostentatious Baroque style pieces went wonderfully with the Palladian style brought back from Italy by William Kent.

Towards the middle half of the Early Georgian Period (1714-1760) the decorative Rococo, with its foliage, scrolls, icicles and rock-work (from which the name rococo is derived) started to come into its own.

Of course where would antique english furniture be without Chippendale?

England's most famous exponent of Rococo was of course Thomas Chippendale. It was in 1754 that he produced 'The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director'.

Chippendale chairs

I remember years ago, while working in an English Antique Shop, having the luck to be able to page through an antique copy of this book.

Apart from other antique English furniture we also had the odd piece of Chippendale to sell, but even then (30 years ago) this was a rare occurrence and unlikely to have been made by the great man himself!

The Oriental style also became very popular and was to influence many pieces of antique furniture. Japanning and imported lacquer work were used for the new chinoiserie decoration and included items such as chairs, beds, commodes and tea tables.


There is something about English Antique Furniture that tops the others

The late Georgian period brought along the Adams brothers (Robert and James) . Robert Adam, Architect-designer (1728-92) who had spent some time in Italy, was fascinated with the straight lines and delicate decoration - Greek keys, mythological figures, honeysuckle, festoons of corn husks and bell shaped flowers, etc.

Around 1763 the Neoclassical style became established in England. Adam's stylistic innovations exerted a profound influence on furniture styles of antique English furniture of the period.

Adam design
Heppelwhite chest of drawers

George Heppelwhite's 'The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Guide' (published in 1788, two years after his death) which was aimed at a wider market with a much greater range of furniture, became popular and overtook Adams popularity.

The Shield-back dining chair, the splayed bracket foot and the revived slender version of the cabriole leg are amongst Heppelwhite's many delightful designs.

Sheraton Sideboard

Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) produced the 'drawing Book' between 1791 and 1794 interpreting the Adam styles, which Heppelwhite had also done in a less ornamental simple style, which is representative of the fashions of the decade. He was also influenced by the Louis XVI style.

French aristocrats were not the only people fleeing from the revolution. The influx of furniture-makers meant that English designers and furniture-makers became more familiar with French styles and work.

Simulated bamboo was to be seen especially the ringed turning inspired by bamboo, was used extensively on straight-legged furniture. The love of the Oriental was evident again.

Two influential figures of the early nineteenth century were Thomas Hope (1769-1831) a rich young man who travelled extensively and having settled in London set to designing and decorating his house in the neo-classical style to accommodate his collections. His designs took on much of the Egyptian styles.

Hope published his designs "Household Furniture and Interior Decoration" which was influential throughout the Regency Period.

The other was George Smith, a cabinet-maker and furniture designer, who published the 'Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration' in 1808, in which many of Hopes ideas were made available along with many designs for domestic english furniture.

Mass production started around 1800 to meet the growing demands of an expanding population.

The simple and austere plain surfaces, with minimal decoration fashionable in England at this time were very suitable for this mass production. Egyptian sphinxes, griffins, hairy paws and sabre legs.

Ebony stringing came into vogue with the death of Nelson (1805) - a sign of mourning.

Around 1810 brass inlays and stringing in the dark back ground of rosewood and mahogany furniture were very popular.

Satinwood and maple were popular after 1820 and the forms became less elegant. Scrolling forms and volutes reappeared.

In the period known as the William IV style (William IV 1830-1837) , the graceful legs of the earlier Regency period become stumpy and bulbous anticipating the ponderous fashions of the early Victorian period.

Gadrooned edge moulding along with hairy paw feet is characteristic of english antique furniture of this period.

Victorian (1837-1901)

Please be patient - I am busy getting information and pictures together on antique victorian furniture .... thanks!


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