Who made Chippendale furniture?

From modest beginnings grew one of the world’s most enduring brands.


A first edition of Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director from 1754, which sold at TW Gaze in Norfolk in September for £1900. 

Thomas Chippendale (1718-79) is arguably Britain’s greatest cabinet maker. From the quality of his furniture to his enduring influence he dominates the history of furniture design. His pieces combined design and practicality, and he was famous in his lifetime for his seminal book on furniture design.

Little is known about Chippendale’s early life, other than that he was born in Yorkshire before travelling to London where he set up his workshop in St Martin’s Lane. He exploded onto the historical record in 1754 with the publication of The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director (popularly known as Chippendale’s Director), which was effectively the first furniture design catalogue allowing others to produce pieces in the same fashionable French-inspired style.

What style is Chippendale furniture?

It is a distinct meld of styles incorporating Rococo, Chinese and Gothic design elements, and also brings in elements of Neoclassical design. It remodelled elaborate French designs for the more understated British market.

How much does Chippendale furniture cost?

With only around 600 pieces traceable to his workshop fully autographed Chippendale furniture is rare on the market. An off-the-peg work created for the casual customer can today go for a five-figure sum, and bespoke items may take more than £1m.

However, pieces ‘attributed to’ Chippendale or those ‘in the manner of’ Chippendale, which were created in rival workshops catering to fashionable taste, are far more common. Because these made use of his Director for their design, the look is achievable without the knock-out price tag.

Generally speaking, however, the value can be determined based on the quality of the design, its complexity and its scale. The smallest and simplest pieces can be sold for prices in the hundred of pounds.

When was Chippendale furniture made?

Though Chippendale lived and worked in the Georgian period, much of what is today described as ‘Chippendale furniture’ is not that era at all. Instead, these are Victorian and Edwardian revival pieces – though the best-quality examples of these later works can command substantial sums. And some pieces are even created for sale today using traditional techniques.

Tags: Furniture
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