The 18th Century was the height of the Age of Enlightenment. It was an age when John Locke and Thomas Jefferson radically suggested that “all men are created equal”, that nations are capable of self-government. It was an age of travel, discovery, industry, and the exchange of intellectual ideas. It was an age of reason and culture.
In the later half of the 18th century, Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director (1754) became the guide for English and American cabinetmaking. Chippendale did not invent the Chippendale style, but his love of French design found expression in the use of naturalistic carving and English cabinetmaking with new mahogany woods from the far-flung British colonies. Thomas Chippendale’s influence as an interior designer is demonstrated by the large number of aristocratic clients he had and the many manors and homes he furnished and decorated. Other cabinetmakers adopted his style and incorporated their own rich creative blends of Gothic, Asian, and French Rococo designs.
Chairs in the Chippendale style became rectilinear, with square seats (replacing rounded and carved Windsor seats), chair backs with carved patterns that flared at the top corners. Claw-and-ball feet with sharply articulated talons reflected the imperial ambitions of the British Empire, as well as the influence of Asian art. Mahogany, imported from the Bahamas and Jamaica, became the cabinetmakers wood of choice (replacing English oak) because of its strength and beauty.