Sheraton-influenced furniture dates from about 1790-1820. It’s named for the London furniture designer and teacher Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806), who trained as a cabinetmaker
Sheraton’s work often overlapped with that of British designer George Hepplewhite. However, the slightly later Sheraton style tends to be simpler, almost severe, and favors “a fiercely rectilinear silhouette. Few pieces actually built by Sheraton survive today. But his designs and ideas influenced entire generations of furniture-makers, especially in the young U.S., as seen in the works of early American masters such as Duncan Phyfe, Samuel McIntire, and John and Thomas Seymour.
Sheraton Style Legs:
In contrast to the popular cabriole legs of earlier styles, such as Queen Anne and Chippendale, Sheraton pieces usually have straight, sometimes tapered, legs; occasionally the back legs would be splayed. They are often rounded (another distinction from Hepplewhite, who preferred a square shape), and frequently have reeded edges, in imitation of Classical columns. They are joined sometimes with stretchers.
Sheraton Style Feet:
Complementing the slim, straight legs of a chair or table, Sheraton-style feet are usually simple: a rectangular spade foot, a cylindrical foot or a tapered arrow foot. Bracket or bun feet might appear on heavier pieces, such as chests, desks and bookcases.
Woods Used in Sheraton Style Pieces:
Because Sheraton furniture is characterized by contrasting veneers and inlays, pieces often contain more than one type of wood. For the base, satinwood was a favorite, but mahogany and beech were also popular. For the decorative elements, common woods included tulipwood, birch, ash and rosewood. Since craftsmen frequently used the local woods at hand, American versions of Sheraton’s designs might use cedar, cherry, walnut or maple as well.
Other Sheraton Style Features:
- Sheraton is known for its light, elegant appearance, especially delicate compared to earlier Queen Anne and Chippendale styles.
- Pieces are embellished with small, low-relief carvings or painted designs, along with intricately patterned and detailed marquetry and veneers, often in dramatically contrasting woods. Some pieces are completely painted, dyed, or japanned (coated with a thick black lacquer).
- Common motifs include drapery swags, lyres, ribbons, fans, feathers, urns and flowers.
- Typical hardware on case pieces includes lion’s heads, stamped plates, rosettes and urns.
- Pieces have simple but strong, well-proportioned geometric shapes, usually square or rectangular. Sofa and chair arms often flow cleanly into the back, without a noticeable break, and the backs themselves are square-shaped. The square-back sofa with exposed arms and reeded legs is perhaps the quintessential Sheraton piece.
Giltwood is wood that has gold leaf or gold paint applied to it, a process known as gilding. Some of the best examples of giltwood are the frames that surround paintings.
Giltwood frames are considered valuable in their own right and are collected apart from the paintings they were meant for.
High-quality antique giltwood tables, chests, chairs, architectural detailing and frames are highly prized, sometimes becoming museum pieces.
The purpose of gilding is to give the appearance of solid gold, a practice that began over 4,000 years ago in Northern Africa. Paintings from Egyptian tombs from around 2000 B.C.E. show workers pounding gold into thin sheets to apply to pieces of furniture and coffins. The Greeks applied gilding to statues in around 400 B.C.E., and gilding techniques have continued to be used
in Europe, South America, Spain, Britain and the United States.
During the 18th century, Louis XIV of France flaunted his wealth with gilded furnishings, framed artwork and architectural detailing, marking France as a leader in the decorative arts.
There are two methods of true gilding: oil gilding and water gilding.
Oil gilding uses an oil-based product on a prepared surface, and the leaf is gently pressed onto the surface.
Water gilding uses a water-based adhesive that causes the gold leaf to adhere to the surface.
If you have piece of giltwood, evaluating its worth involves the condition of its structure, especially tiny holes caused by insects. The gesso layer is a factor; flaking gesso can mean imminent damage. Look closely at the ornamentation. Is any of it showing cracks? This will have an impact on the value. Another important consideration is the finish. Most gold leaf should be at least 23 karats, mixed with small amounts of copper and silver. Watch out for imitations in the form of white gold and bronze powder. These treatments will affect the value
In 1859, after 300 years of self-imposed semi-isolation, Japanese ports re-opened to trade and the mass market in the West got its first glimpse of the country’s outstanding decorative arts. The fashion for all things Oriental quickly took hold with Europeans buying Japanese-made goods or buying locally made items that mimicked the Japanese style.
Among the ceramics which found a new popularity were Satsuma wares – a fine Earthenware with a distinctive cream-coloured ground and delicately crazed Glaze decorated with Overglaze Enamel and Gilding. From the 1870s, Japanese craftsmen had to look for new markets for their wares. They were encouraged to sell their wares to the West and Satsuma wares were exhibited at a series of international exhibitions. The subsequent export wares created a demand for more affordable, gaudier Satsuma.
The best quality pieces dating from the early Meiji period (1868-1912) represent the pinnacle of Satsuma production. They took months to make with the result that Satsuma wares were prohibitively expensive to all but the very wealthy at home and abroad.
Most Satsuma artists bought glazed blanks from potters which they decorated freehand with traditional Japanese motifs and patterns such as foliage and flowers (frequently chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, lotus flowers and leaves, prunus blossom and bamboo); landscapes (dragons, lions and unicorns); real and mythical birds; and human figures engaged in ceremonial, military or everyday domestic activities. The scenes are usually surrounded by densely filled borders of flowers such as peonies or diaper or Fretwork designs
German influence was discernable in the furniture of this period, the style becoming heavier. The fine designs of the 18th century were for a short time forgotten but not the craftsmanship. Mahogany, rosewood and satinwood were used, an 18th century revival occurred, the result being some of the finest furniture ever made was produced, Pride in craftsmanship was paramount and nineteenth century makers vied with each other to produce the very best. Gillows, Holland, Morell & Seddon. Lamb, Wright & Mansfield and others used the best materials available to proudly produce furniture fit for The Kings, Queens, Emperors, the Aristocracy and Gentlemen of The World. All previous knowledge and style was employed, honed and developed to greater effect. England was confident enough to throw her doors open to the whole world, “The Great Exhibition of the Works of all Nations 1851 held in London was the first of its kind not to restrict any Nation such was our prowess at that time that England and her Commonwealth took over half of the space available, in1862 we did it again! We will never see the like again; 19th century furniture was amongst the best ever made.
George Hepplewhite (1727 – June 21, 1786) was a cabinetmaker. He is regarded as having been one of the “big three” English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. There are no pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite or his firm known to exist but he gave his name to a distinctive style of light, elegant furniture that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800 and reproductions of his designs continued through the following centuries. One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design
Very little is known about Hepplewhite himself. Some established sources list no birth information; however a “George Hepplewhite” was born in 1727 in Ryton Parish, County Durham, England. He served his apprenticeship in Lancaster and then moved to London, where he opened a shop. After he died in 1786, the business was continued by his widow, Alice. In 1788 she published a book with about 300 of his designs, The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide, with two further editions published in 1789 and 1790.
With contemporaries such as Thomas Chippendale producing pieces in a variety of styles, Hepplewhite’s famed style is more easily identifiable. Hepplewhite produced designs that were slender, more curvilinear in shape and well balanced. There are some characteristics that hint at a Hepplewhite design, such as shorter more curved chair arms, straight legs, shield-shape chair backs, all without carving. The design would receive ornamentation from paint and inlays used on the piece.
Ernest William Gimson (1864 – 1919) was an architect and Arts and Crafts furniture designer who founded the movement known as the Cotswold School. Although he built a number of country houses, his true skill lay in his antique marquetry furniture , chests and ironwork. Gimson’s Arts and Crafts furniture utilises many cross-cultural references, with elegant lines and simple, but effective ornamentation.
Born in Leicester, Gimson initially trained with the architect Isaac Barradale. In the 1880s he met William Morris, who recommended him to the London architect John Dando Sedding. Here, Gimson developed an interest in natural craft techniques, working alongside Ernest Barnsley while learning traditional furniture skills and plasterwork.
In the 1890s Gimson formed a furniture company with Sidney Barnsley and others, eventually moving to the Cotswolds. In 1900 he set up a furniture workshop in Cirencester. Later he moved to Sapperton, where he designed furniture until his death. His large team of craftsmen, led by cabinet-maker Peter van der Waals, later relocated to new premises in Chalford.
Gimson’s Arts & Crafts Furniture was as diverse as it was inspired. Made with woods like oak and cherry, derived from local sources, he left technical features such as dovetail joints and dowels exposed to reveal the craftsmanship. Later he used metalwork to embellish his antique chests and cabinets. He also made use of agricultural styles, such as chamfered hayrake stretchers and open-work wagon rails.
Gimson’s church commissions were ornate, his designs often inspired by Gujarati, Venetian or Byzantine styles. His antique chests and caskets were furnished with mother-of-pearl or silver, his antique marquetry furniture decorated with leaves and flowers.
When asked to design furniture for “grander” homes he often returned to the craftsmanship of the 17th century French palaces, but ornamentation was always secondary to design. Macassar ebony and holly stringing, figured Birdlip oak and English walnut detailing, simple gougework, forged ironwork, multi fielded panels and bowed, curved and canted lines gave his antique cabinets elegance, beauty and function. Today, Gimson’s antique chests and cabinets can be seen at venues like the Leicester Museum and Owlpen Manor.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was one of the most significant figures in the history of Arts & Crafts Furniture, and a major influence on the Art Nouveau movement. A talented architect, designer and artist, he was central to the development of the Glasgow Style of design. He had few clients, yet his distinctive stained glass panels elegant Victorian dining chairs are known the world over.
Mackintosh was apprenticed to architects Honeyman and Keppie in 1889, also studying at the Glasgow School of Art. His first major architectural commission was the Glasgow Herald Building (1894), which showed amazing innovation and maturity.
Antique bookcases and the Glasgow School
Mackintosh believed that designers and architects should have freedom of expression, and began experimenting with design, aided by his friends Herbert MacNair and Frances and Margaret Macdonald (who he later married). Dubbed the Spook School, they established the Glasgow Style.
In 1896 Mackintosh, was awarded a major commission to design a new wing for the Glasgow School of Art. Constructed in two stages, it was Mackintosh’s most important work, containing baronial Scottish, rustic Japanese and many other elements. The Library is a complex geometry of timber posts and beams, complemented by dark slender antique bookcases and elegantly pierced chairs.
The Victorian dining chairs of the Cranston tearooms
Mackintosh’s best-known works were for Catherine Cranston, who commissioned him for her tearooms between 1896 and 1917. He was allowed complete freedom of expression, providing everything from the light fittings to the cutlery. The dramatic high-backed Victorian dining chairs, so prized by Lancashire collectors, are still copied by designers today.
Another important commission was Hill House, for publisher Walter Blackie. However, Mackintosh had only a few patrons, his ethic of total design making him unpopular with clients. His last public commission was a Glasgow school, in 1906. Further work followed, but it was largely met with indifference.
Mackintosh moved to London, where he began working in a bold new abstract style. However, it largely went unnoticed. Today, of course, his genius is recognised, and in Cumbria his antique dining tables and elegant chairs sell for many thousands of pounds.