Do you have a piece of Chippendale furniture in your home? If the answer is no, you're missing out—designers love such pieces because of their versatility; Chippendale furniture looks excellent in traditional spaces but also pairs wonderfully with more modern elements, too.
Still popular in today's homes, Chippendale furniture is centuries old and emerged as a stark contrast to styles of the time. Read on for more background about the history of such pieces, ways to make them stand out in your own space, and more.
Meet the Expert
Chippendale furniture originated in the 18th century, and it marked a turning point in design history in many ways. "It is the very first furniture style that was actually named after its manufacturer, the famous cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale from London," designer Kim Armstrong notes, explaining that previously, furniture styles were named after the existing monarch. "As a designer, it is lovely to know that not only are they beautiful statement pieces, but also that there is deeper meaning within the chair or table, there is an integrity of a fellow artisan or creative," designer Amelia Fogarty reflects.
The style was quickly well received. "It was a widely popular style at the time thanks to Chippendale's vision to combine various design aesthetics ... which was sought after for being so distinctive," says designer Mark Manardo, who designed the room above. And the look presented something brand new. "It was a reactionary design that revoked the Rococo influence of its predated design aesthetic," Armstrong adds. "Although by today’s standardized we see it as more decorative, really for that time, it was considered quite a simple design."
Chippendale furniture draws on both Rococo and Gothic style, designers explain. Armstrong adds that Chippendale pieces are characterized by a number of key characteristics: S-curves, gothic influenced arches, Queen Anne cabriole legs, heavy Chinese influences, and pagoda elements in cabinet pediments. "Chippendale took these disparate styles and blended them into harmonious designs," designer Mark Lavender shares.
And Chippendale pieces have a telltale aesthetic. "Chippendale furniture is almost always constructed of dark wood, such as mahogany, walnut and cherry wood, alongside very rich and ornate upholstery," Manardo notes.
Chippendale pieces are popular in more traditional homes, but designers find that they also pair nicely with more modern furniture. "I was able to use the client’s Chippendale style armchairs in this study’s seating area, along with the more modern Milo Baughman chrome and leather chairs," Armstrong says of the space above. Adds Fogarty, "Try using Chippendale chairs around a light oak, oval table with a modern pedestal to ground it. A Chippendale round table is also lovely in an entry foyer, layered with textures of a ceramic vase with branches and sculptural pieces to sit on top."
Adds Lavender, "Depending on the client, we use a variety of styles with the furniture pieces from classic traditional to a more modern approach." And Chippendale pieces play nicely with prints of all kinds, he says. "One consistent thing we implement whenever we use elements of this style is the use of deep colors and strong patterns. While we may use a more subtle pattern on a chair seat, we may go bold with window treatments or vice versa never wanting to overpower a space." And when clients seek a more contemporary aesthetic, Chippendale pieces are sometimes painted in bright hues, Lavender shares.
Overall, though, Manardo believes that less is more when it comes to incorporating this style of furniture into a space. "Chippendale furniture can lend a lot of character, history, and gravitas to a room," he says. "We find that it is best to add one or two key pieces to a room to lend that old world elegance, without overwhelming the space."
Those in the market for Chippendale furniture should note that pieces are quite pricy. "Authentic Chippendale furniture, bought at auction or through dealers, can go for thousands of dollars, as they truly are historical works of art," Manardo explains. "However you can always get lucky and find a unique piece at an antique shop for a relatively attainable price, or there are many of Chippendale inspired pieces in the market today that will give you a similar look without blowing your budget."