Mahogany was certainly relied for its effect on the use of flowing lines, Chinese work was seen in the popularity of geometrical fretwork patterns and Oriental figures and designs, and Gothic in the use of the pointed arch.

The neo-classical revival began in the sixties, inspired by robert adam (1728-92). His furniture, beautifully designed and made, was decorated with delicate classical motifs, paterae, pendant husks, urns, fluting, etc. His liking for furniture of aAntique furniture restoration more elegant appearance led to a revival of fine inlaid work, and much use of satin-wood and other timbers. But mahogany, used as a veneer by itself, or with other woods, or for carving the classical motifs, was well adapted to the new mode, shown in the work of Chippendale (who worked for Adam) and Cobb in their later periods, john linnell, william france and others. In 1788 appeared george hepplewhite's Cabinet­makers' and Upholsterers' Guide, two years after the author's death. The great merit of this work was to interpret the new classical styles very skilfully for all kinds of furniture.

The explanations of the designs in the Guide constantly stress the suitability of mahogany both for small work like cellarets and knife-boxes, and for larger pieces like tables and bookcases. thomas sheraton (1751-1806) pro­duced the Cabinet Makers' and Upholsterers' Drawing Book between 1791 and 1794 and bridged the gap between the neo-classical and the Regency periods.

Sheraton favoured light, delicate furniture, including painted work, and for his finest pieces he recommended satinwood. He also used other tropical woods, popular about 1800, for the best apartments of the house, such as the drawing-room and boudoir. His period is distinguished for the dainty, almost fragile, appearance of some of his furniture. This cannot be said of the final period, the Regency, ending about 1830. There was a renewal of classical forms in­spired by the Directoire styles in France, but these were carried out in a strict and narrow fashion, a cchaste5 and literal interpretation of Greek, Roman and Egyptian examples. The designer thomas hope in his House­hold Furniture (1807) heralded this stress on an archaeological approach. Furniture took on a heavier appearance. One result was to re-emphasize dark, lustrous or heavily-figured woods, especially to show brightly gilt mounts in the prevailing mode. This explains the popularity of rosewood after 1800, but there was also a great demand for mahogany because of its suitable colour and grain.


The popularity of satinwood from 1770 has already been mentioned, paving the way for a lighter, more delicate, aspect of furniture design. This trend, emphasized by a revival of veneers and fine inlaid work, led the cabinet-makers to experiment with a wide range of exotic timbers, brought to them from all parts of the world, especially from tropical areas, by enterprising merchants. Satinwood itself, from both the East and West Indies, was yellowish in tone; so was fustic, from the West Indies, but this faded to a dead brown and was decried by Sheraton.

Other woods, which showed rich shades of brown and red, varying from light to deep, included cala-mander, snakewood, coromandel and rose­wood from India and Ceylon, thuya from Africa, ebony from the East, kingwood, partridge wood, purple wood and tulip wood from Central and South America, and amboyna from the West Indies. Camphor from the East Indies was also used for boxes and trunks, and red cedar from North and Central America for drawer linings, trays and boxes.

Native woods were not neglected: holly, pear, maple and laburnum were used for inlays on first-rate pieces, and there was a demand for sycamore, which was stained a greenish-grey colour, and known as hare- wood, for veneers. Mahogany was used with these woods, which led to a closer study of its beautiful figure and fine range of colour, and made it appreciated more than ever. Figure and lustre were fashionable qualities after 1800, hence the importance of rosewood, large fresh supplies of which were now avail­able from the opening-up of trade with South America (particularly Brazil), calamander, coromandel, snakewood, tulip wood and zebra wood: the last, as its name implies, having an effective dark stripe. Imported deal continued to be the favourite wood for car­case work during this period, but from 1750 red deal from North America largely re­placed the former yellow variety.


Fret-work: this form of decorative work was popular in Chippendale's time, particu­larly to show Chinese patterns. Fret designs could be either open or applied. The open fret was seen on table and cabinet tops and the applied fret was found on the flat sur­faces of chairs, tables, cabinets, etc (Plates 25 and 2QA for applied fret, Plate 32 for open fret-work).

nlay: Robert Adam revived fine inlaid work, which in technique resembled seven­teenth-century marquetry (see Walnut) but differed from it in the use of classical designs and figures, and of new, lighter-coloured woods. An effective form of inlay much favoured by Sheraton was stringing, or lines of inlay in contrasting woods or brass, some of the work being of extreme delicacy.

Metal Mounts: these were made of brass and were fine gilt, which gave them a rich and golden appearance. They were used for work in the rococo style (Plate 28) and decorative effect in the Regency period.

Veneers: mahogany had a variety of beautiful figures or mottles. Some of the early San Domingo wood had 'roe* mottles, dark flakes running with the grain (as on the drawer fronts, Plate 25), giving attractive effects of light and shade, and at their best when the lines of figures were broken, they then varied in appearance according to the angle from which they were viewed. Cuban and Honduras mahogany, however, had a wider range of figures and were in great demand for veneers after 1750. Cuban 'curls' (giving the effect shown in Plates 25, 26, 27, 35 and 36) were highly prized. Their feather was obtained by cutting the tree where a large branch joined the trunk. This limited their size, and made them expensive and somewhat brittle ('Cross and unpliable' -Sheraton), unlike most mahogany veneers. The 'fiddle-back' came from the outer edge of the trunk and had even streaks running across the grain. The 'rain' mottle was similar but had wider and longer streaks. The 'stopped' or 'broken' mottle had irregular but brilliant flame-like markings. Dark and oval spots in the wood produced the 'plum' mottle. All these veneers were saw-cut and thick enough by modern standards to be considered more as facings than veneers.

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