Hepplewhite Style (1775-1800)

The Hepplewhite style is named after its creator, George Hepplewhite. A distinctive and elegant furniture style that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800.

George III mahogany chairs, in the Hepplewhite style, 1790.
George III mahogany chairs, in the Hepplewhite style, 1790. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hepplewhite_Chairs.jpg



George Hepplewhite, (died 1786, London) English cabinetmaker and furniture designer whose name is associated with a graceful style of Neoclassicism, a movement he helped to formulate in the decorative arts.

Little is known of Hepplewhite’s life except that he was apprenticed to the English furniture maker Robert Gillow of Lancaster, went to London, and opened a shop there on Redcross Street. Other than his noting on a chair design that it had been “executed with good effect for the Prince of Wales,” there is no other evidence to show that Hepplewhite’s was a fashionable firm; furthermore, the royal accounts have no record of the chair.

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Hepplewhite

After he died in 1786, the business was continued by his widow, Alice. In 1788 she published a book with about 300 of his designs, “The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterers Guide”, with two further editions published in 1789 and 1790.

Design for a sofa by George Hepplewhite, engraving from his book, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide (1788).
Design for a sofa by George Hepplewhite, engraving from his book, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide (1788). Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Hepplewhite

Many are quick to praise the designer George Hepplewhite, but there are inconsistencies to his fame. The question arises whether “George Hepplewhite” was a real person or just a name for Alice Hepplewhite to publish under.

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hepplewhite

The cabinet-maker and upholsterer's guide.First edition.
The cabinet-maker and upholsterer’s guide. First edition.


Images source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art


Characteristics of this style:

The furniture proposed by Hepplewhite consisted of a very personal reworking of the neoclassical model.

One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a:

  • shield-shaped chair back. Hepplewhite-style chairs are regal, elegant, and understated. With their signature shield backs and delicate carving, they’re timeless chairs.

Other characteristics of Hepplewhite style mahogany dining chairs included:

  • upholstered seats( in more delicate colors than Queen Anne and Chippendale chairs, showing increasing classical influence)
  • straight, tapered legs that were either plain detailed with molding or fluting
  • spade feet, or plain feet with inlay
  • shorter, curved arms
  • narrower splats
  • a gorgeous mix of classical-inspired and authentic ancient motifs including: wheat ears, feathers, urns,honeysuckle, drapery, pendant bellflowers, rosettes, and fans at the base of the shields.
  • Satinwood and walnut were often used in his furniture.

Info source: http://www.museumfurniture.com/hepplewhite/https://www.onekingslane.com/info/home/hepplewhite-style-chairs/; https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Hepplewhite

Mahogany Armchair George Hepplewhite style.
Mahogany Armchair George Hepplewhite style.
Side cabinet George Hepplewhite style.
Side cabinet George Hepplewhite style.

 Images source: http://www.museumfurniture.com/hepplewhite/

Page from Hepplewhite's style guide, published in 1787.
Page from Hepplewhite’s style guide, published in 1787. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hepplewhite#/media/File:Hepplewhite%27s_Guide_1787.jpg

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