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Famous English Furniture Designers & Makers

For a number of centuries, until the eighteenth century, English furniture design lagged in innovation and skill behind its European counterparts, with the odd exception, such as Grinling Gibbons in the world of carving.

English Cabinet Makers Office
English Cabinet Makers Office
The painting shows a cabinet maker pointing to a design for a commode and bookcase which has been coloured for presentation to a client. He is leaning on the bookkeeper's desk, which supports the order book and various account books. The figure to the right, pen in hand, is probably the bookkeeper. The simple panelled room contains a desk, stool and plain bookcase for housing the records of the cabinet-maker's business. Only a substantial business, such as that managed by Thomas Chippendale, would have required a full-time book keeper.

Later, especially from the William & Mary furniture period we see great numbers of Dutch craftsmen and designers taking their trade across the Channel such as Gerrit Jensen and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 numbers of French Protestants such as Daniel Marot who had considerable influence on the outcome of Queen Anne furniture style.

In the early Georgian era our interest turns to the elaborate interior Palladian designs of William Kent.

Apart from the partial exceptions of Kent and Marot no other great names are associated with the making of furniture in Queen Anne and early Georgian times and most work is anonymous. The odd piece is signed but it is not until the rococo period of the middle of the 18th century that furniture is identified with the name of a famous designer, the first being Thomas Chippendale. Thomas Johnson, at the same time, holds some interest for his wildly flowing carved designs.

Upholster's Trade Card
Upholster's Trade Card, circa 1735.
The trade card depicts the interior of Christopher Gibsons' upholstery shop in St Pauls' Churchyard, London. Several upholsterers can be seen at work around the shop, and a wide range of goods is displayed. There are several cane chairs, chairs with upholstered seats, rolls of fabric, a mirror and an angel bed (a bed with a canopy which attaches to the back wall). Although the trade card is probably not an accurate representation of the interior of Christopher Gibsons' shop, all the objects included would have been chosen to show the range of goods that Gibson could supply. The well dressed man in the centre is possibly meant to be Christopher Gibson himself, showing a chair to two female customers.

William Chambers was a fashionable Georgian architect who brought the chinoiserie taste to England.

Later we move on the the Golden Age of English furniture designers in the persons and works of Robert Adam, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton, and Thomas Hope

The Industrial Revolution witnessed the growth of machine made furniture and the role of the artisan cabinet maker or designer declined until the arrival of William Morris, and later, Ernest Gimson.


Also included here is a listing of the major English clockmakers.

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