Thursday, September 21, 2017

American Furniture Styles: Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton

By Gretchen Sawatzki

The Federal Style (1780 - 1820) of American furniture was pivotal period in the history of furniture design. During this period, cabinet and furniture makers from Europe settling in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia used their craft to usher in a new design culture in post-revolutionary America.

The Federal period can be defined by three major cabinet-marker/furniture designers, Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Sheraton.

The Chippendale Style (1755 - 1790) is the earliest sub-style of the Federal design movement. Named for the English cabinet-maker, Thomas Chippendale who published the book Gentlemen and Cabinet-maker's Director in 1754, 1755, and 1762. The book consisted of furniture designs and instructions for how to construct them. The Director reflected Chippendale's affinity for ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese design.

Parlor chairs designed by Thomas Chippendale.
 [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

The Hepplewhite Style (1790 - 1815) developed out a growing patriotism in post-revolutionary America. To create their own identity American furniture designers turned towards the popular Federal Style of architecture to create their furnishings. The Hepplewhite Style favors symmetry and balance while featuring truly democratic symbolism including the shield. The style was the brainchild of George Hepplewhite an English cabinet-maker, who created a popular design book, The Cabinet Maker and Upholster's Guide published in 1788, 1789, and 1794.

Famous Hepplewhite shieldback chair.
[Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The Sheraton Style (1790 - 1810) closely resembles the Federal Style of furniture and is often lumped into the period-style. Created by Thomas Sheraton in his series of books, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book published 1791 - 1794, The Cabinet Directory in 1803, and The Cabinet-Maker, Upholsterer, and General Artist's Encyclopedia in 1804, The Sheraton Style was simpler than other furniture of the era with a emphasis on veneer-work.

Chairs designed by Thomas Sheraton. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

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