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Breathing New Life into Chippendale's 18th-Century Designs

As those of you who own a business know, finding the time to market your product can sometimes be difficult. Similarly, those in the art and design trade might spend more time creating and designing than sharing those very designs on websites, social media and showcasing them to future clients. However, this was no concern for a young 18th-century English cabinet-maker who found a way to create and market his design at the same time. Many consider him to be the first modern day interior designer, as he not only made custom furniture for his clients, but also supplied things like wallpaper, carpets and even complete room schemes. Meet Thomas Chippendale.

Chippendale began making custom furniture for wealthy estate owners once his designs caught their eyes. He put his own twist on Rococo (French), Gothic, and Chinese (Chinoiserie) designs. By combining these influences, he created a style of furniture that is still seen in our homes today.

Chippendale went on to publish The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, one of the first furniture design books, which quickly became the go-to prototype for furniture making during the Georgian period. Think of a pattern book for making clothes. You're given a template to copy the design in the book, and The Director was basically that, but for furniture rather than clothing.

The Director eventually made it across the pond where American cabinet-makers crafted their own unique versions of Chippendale furniture. Each port city had its own style, and the originals are sold for incredible amounts at auctions.


My favorite version is the Chinese Chippendale. It's more geometric than the other designs. Its Chinese influence is seen in its fretwork, pagoda style head designs, blocked feet and straight Marlborough legs.


Furniture and lighting designers have recently modernized the lines in the designs, and what we see in the pages of magazines and on design websites is truly inspiring.​ Here are a few examples of how the original design is being reworked by today's creatives:

I've even implemented the Chinese Chippendale fretwork in a staircase I recently designed for one of my clients.

Thomas Chippendale was a hugely forward-thinking designer who created an architectural and interior design movement that is still influencing designers today.

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