How to Identify Chippendale Furniture

Chippendale is synonymous with some of the greatest pieces of furniture crafted in England. His furniture pieces were such masterful pieces of art that the style spread around and influenced furniture made by other furniture makers in Europe and the rest of the world. If you have broken furniture, you can search for “furniture repair near me” and get it fixed by a professional. Let’s figure out how you can identify Chippendale furniture.

The Identifiers

1. Spacious timber – Chippendale knew the wood he was working with and understood all of its qualities. That’s why he had a different approach to different types of wood he worked with. For instance, for mahogany pieces, he would use gross-grain timber on a simple molding instead of long-grain to refine places that would be overlooked by others.

This resulted in unique characteristics in his pieces. That’s why floating panels on doors in his furniture have more than enough room to shrink with time without being split. That’s why his furniture still remains in pristine condition, and you can use this as a prominent identifier.

2. Mirrors have flexibility – While constructing mirrors, Chippendale made sure to apply the material between the backboard and the expensive plates. This created a cushioning effect that allowed a certain degree of flexibility for the mirrors. If a furniture piece is being auctioned as Chippendale’s craft and has a mirror, you can look out for this feature. Moreover, on the mirror itself, you would find ornamentations dovetailed at the edges right into the frame instead of being glued over.

3. Concealed screw holes – As Chippendale furniture pieces became famous all across the globe, they were being shipped to various locations. However, shipping and packaging during that area were crude and that means some adjustments needed to be made to the furniture pieces.

They had to come up with a way to ship the furniture piece disassemble and then put it back together without showing any ugly creases, indents or slots. That’s where the famous ‘cramp cuts’ came in. When you come across a Chippendale chair, look for cramp cuts on the inside of the seat rail to identify if it’s genuine. The cramp cut allowed assemblers to tighten the rail and leg while gluing and hiding those parts of the furniture.  

4. Position of arm supports – Arm supports may be a dead giveaway when copycats and scammers try to sell you a fake Chippendale product. Look at the arm supports. They shouldn’t join the top of the leg and always join the seat rail. On the other hand, if the chair used an oval back, it would feature an exposed upright strut.

5. Wood used in Chippendale furniture – There’s a widespread misconception about the wood used in Chippendale furniture. Most people think that Chippendale pieces made with mahogany are the original pieces and the rest of them are all fake. However, that’s just partial truth. While it’s true that earlier pieces made by Chippendale mostly used mahogany, later on, he also used other woods including cherry, maple, and walnut.

In fact, the type of wood used in the furniture can help you approximately figure out the time the furniture was crafted. Earlier pieces made during the early 18th century were exclusively made from mahogany. They had the distinct reddish-brown color of the hardwood and would stand out at any auction show. On the other hand, later pieces were made from two or more types of wood and were stained with a darker finish to mimic the original mahogany pieces.   

6. Drawers were lined with different types of wood – To identify a Chippendale cabinet or storage furniture, you need to look at the drawers and shelves. Those drawers are full of distinct characteristics left by skilled craftsmen. One of those characteristics was the use of short-grain kickers that prevents a drawer from kicking downward when extended beyond the limit.

These kickers were chosen since they would last longer than long-grain kickers. Apart from that, the drawers also have fine dovetails, and sections that required extra strength would be lined with mahogany instead of other types of wood. If the cabinet drawer was meant to store clothes, it would be lined with cedar.

On the other hand, functional pieces were mainly lined with oak. Now oak is a significantly cheaper wood compared to mahogany and is a softwood. However, to keep his furniture pieces affordable and manage the rising prices of timber, oak was sometimes used in Chippendale furniture. Interestingly, its use was cleverly disguised with marble paper. The marbled paper would hide the cheaper oak and pine while also acting as a shield against worm infestation.

7. Legs and feet – Chippendale furniture come with a few common leg and feet styles. Keep an eye out for wooden lattices, S-shaped curves, and pointed arches on pieces. The most common foot and leg styles used in Chippendale furniture were Cabriole legs, Elaborate Rococo legs, Reeded and Fluted legs, and the Ball the Claw feet. On some exquisite Chippendale pieces, you’ll also find the Marlborough leg that was inspired by Gothic and Chinese styles.

8. Self-leveling system – If you come across a pedestal desk and the seller claims that it’s a Chippendale piece, you have an easy way of figuring out the genuineness of the claim. You should be able to find a unique system of just two castors located centrally under each pedestal. These casters were responsible for keeping the furniture level on uneven stone or wooden floors without a lot of effort. It also offers more freedom of movement while assembling the furniture piece. That self-leveling system is unique to furniture pieces from that era and is an easy identifier.

Conclusion

Identifying Chippendale furniture is difficult since he didn’t leave any signage or maker’s mark on the furniture pieces. However, all the pieces made by him have distinct visual characteristics that make identification possible. If you have damaged furniture at home, you can search for “furniture repair near me” and hire pros to fix it for you.