This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
During the early Georgian period, and synchronously with the carved and gilt Kentian pieces and the "architects' furniture," a great deal of the other furniture underwent a process of elaboration that was more observable in decorative details and the amount of decoration applied than in structural forms. It began with what is known as the "Decorated Queen Anne" type and progressed through the heavily, and often overly, embellished creations of chair and cabinet makers up to the rise of Thomas Chippendale into prominence as the arbiter of furniture fashions. About the middle of the century there had been a recrudesoence of the "Chinese taste" in the Oriental and pseudo-Oriental forms inspired by the designs of Sir William Chambers. It was left for Chippendale to temper and correct the excesses of design that had prevailed prior to his regime, to adapt and improve upon the precedents that he found previously established, and to introduce new elements by which he sought to elevate mobiliary taste of his day and, needless to say, this he succeeded in doing.
* These imposing carved and gilt tables, consoles and the like began to be popular in the latter part of the 17th century, thanks to the influence of Marot, whom William of Orange brought to England.
The heritage of English precedent that Chippendale found ready to his hand, he refined and, in many cases, elaborated with the utmost skill, displaying his genius and originality, not in the futile effort to create something utterly different from all preexistent fashions, but through a sane and reasonable adaptation to contemporary requirements as he conceived them and as the means at his disposal prompted him. The "Chinese taste" he interpreted in a manner perfectly consistent with the needs and environment for which he was working; the "Gothic style" in its undiluted form, though obviously an anachronism and a piece of affectation, altogether out of keeping with the architectural settings then being created, he handled with tactful address and contrived to keep it from being aggressively offensive; the Rococo inspiration, derived from current French models, he translated successfully into an English body and, although there was nothing in any of the phases of British architectural and decorative backgrounds to which it in any way corresponded, managed so to express the style that it did not conflict with its environment But it was in what might be called his "composite" work, in the expression of which he freely drew from various sources and commingled elements Chinese, Gothic and Rococo in the same piece along with traditions of earlier English derivation, that he achieved his most signal successes as a great master of style. Whatever diversities of origin such pieces might reveal upon close and searching scrutiny, there can be no question that their ensemble was in full and harmonious accord with the architectural environment of the day.
Early in the second half of the eighteenth century, under the revived classic impulse imparted by the Brothers Adam, the whole spirit of furniture design underwent a radical change and the mobiliary equipment of the period was created with the avowed and patent intent of close coincidence with the newer phase of architectural expression. Emphasis was laid upon straight structural lines and the decorative details were of obviously architectural provenance. The attenuation and restraint discernible in architectural forms were communicated to the structure of the furniture and also visibly affected not only the forms of the ornament employed but also the amount of ornament and the manner of its distribution. While Chippendale, so long as he followed the bent of his own inspiration, worked almost exclusively in mahogany and carried the manipulation of his chosen medium to the highest development of which even so facile and accommodating a material was susceptible, the access of Adam influence popularised a great diversity of materials which, while they did not displace mahogany as a cabinet wood, were freely used concurrently with it and vastly. added to the resources of colour possibility and contributed to the general lightening effect of contemporary interior decoration. Satinwood especially came into high favour. At the same time painting and inlay were exploited to the full extent of their capabilities as decorative factors. Hepplewhite, Shearer, Sheraton, and also the lesser lights who wrought at the same time and followed in their wake, were all profoundly influenced by the new ideals of which the Adelphi were successful protagonists and the work of all these cabinet makers and designers exhibited a kindred regard for and observance of the reversion to purer classic principles with the attendant attenuation of proportions and dominance of straight lines as well as the use of motifs of more or less immediate classical provenance.
At the very end of the century we discover the classic forms merging gradually into the "Directoire" phase of expression, while early in the nineteenth century - a period synchronous with the very apparent decadence of Sheraton design - we find the more bombastic manifestations corresponding to the Empire fashion in France for, notwithstanding the abhorrence of France and of French politics, French styles were as potent and pervasive as ever. For a detailed discussion of Empire forms, as well as for the minute particulars of all the furniture variations during the period included in this chapter, the reader is referred to the "Practical Book of Period Furniture," Eberlein and McClure.