Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley, Yorkshire, 1718 and died in London in 1779. He’s immensely famous, but why?
His fame stems from the fact he was arguably the most gifted cabinet-maker of his time, and his services were sought by the great and the good. However, he wasn’t simply born into his illustrious career, as his success came only following significant efforts on his part to establish his name and further his reputation.
Chippendale was the only child to be born into a family of Yorkshire carpenters. After an average education the details of his early career are obscure, which serves to emphasise how his family business was not a particularly well known one when he first started his working life.
It wasn’t until 1748, aged 30, that Chippendale started to make a name for himself when he moved to London, set up as a cabinet-maker, married and had a large family.
His workshop was on St Martins Lane, a newly fashionable centre of the furniture making trade in London throughout the 1800s. It was from this base that Chippendale undertook many large-scale furnishing projects for grand houses throughout Britain.
The factor which helped him be so successful was that at the time there was a huge demand for luxury goods.
The major point in his career which cemented his position as one of Europe’s foremost cabinet-makers came in 1754, when he published a pattern book called The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directory.
The book was issued in 1755 and included 120 designs for pieces of furniture. It was bought by many aristocrats and authority figures, who then clamoured for Chippendale to create one of his pieces for them.
Not all his furniture followed these designs though, as for the right price he was able to create bespoke pieces. Chippendale’s workshop also made a success of producing simpler, plainer pieces for private spaces which were mass-produced and easily sold.
As a result his business grew quickly, with a workforce of 40-50 artisans operating from his St Martin’s Lane workshop by the end of 1755.
Nowadays his works are scattered across the UK and Europe, with many antique furniture dealers like ourselves offering Chippendale furniture for sale.