There are many, many differences in the furniture styles of George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. These two furniture artists of the mid 18th century each had a style to their own but today I’ll focus on a quick and easy way to distinguish between the two styles that won’t fail you very often.
It’s the legs! Both furniture makers got their influence from the styles of England (as did everyone back then) and the differences are hard to spot except in the case of the legs.
Short and simple. Hepplewhite kept his legs SQUARED and tapered while Sheraton almost always used a turned style (still tapered) on his furniture. Some examples will follow. This rule applies to pretty much any piece you are looking at from chairs to sideboards.
Here are a couple of Hepplewhite sideboards as examples of the squared, tapered legs that are typical of George Hepplewhite. Both of these sideboards are circa 1790. The first one has a bit of Sheraton style in the intricate inlay, but the style of the legs overrides the Sheraton influence and this piece surely qualifies as Hepplewhite. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of subtlety in determining older pieces, so it’s good to have a rule of thumb to go by.
These old photos we had to scan and the detail isn’t as nice as I’d like (you can click the images to enlarge), but you can see the detail on the legs that the Sheraton style furniture has compared to the Hepplewhite. Both are tapered, but Sheraton style furniture features turned legs with a lot of detail. Many time the legs have “knees” for a little extra flash. Again, I want to be clear, this is not the only difference between the styles, far from it. This is just the easiest way to quickly and pretty accurately figure out if you are looking at a Hepplewhite piece or a Sheraton piece.
As I mentioned before, this little trick works all pretty much all types of furniture these two created and below is a good example of a Sheraton (on the left) style curio/writing desk next to a Hepplewhite (on the right) style curio/roll top writing desk. You can spot several style differences between the two but what jumps right out? The legs! The Sheraton on the left features turned and styled legs while the Hepplewhite piece sticks to the squared off legs.
If you’ve got anything to add, or if I’m dead wrong, let me know in the comments! 🙂
I recently had the pleasure of coming across some old photos of Sheraton style hardware that were taken nearly 100 years ago. Since the Sheraton style came to prominence so long ago in the late 1700’s I found it very interesting to see if what is available out there today really looks like how it used to. We actually don’t carry much of this style hardware, we’ve got this Sheraton bail pull here, but here is a google image search of it so you can compare for yourself. Seems to me everyone is doing a pretty good job reproducing the original style.
So here’s a look at a few pieces and their applications from way back.
Circa 1810 these next two pictures show off some of the detail available at the time. The first pull features an ear of corn while the knob boasts a decorative wreath in the middle.
The two bail pulls below would have been made of brass and each one has it’s own design. Not sure what the top one is but the bottom shows two bows and two arrows crossing each other.
And here are few Sheraton school desks with the original hardware. Tough to see from the old photography but still very interesting to me and hopefully some others, haha!
This first one is from around 1790. This sideboard is made from Mahogany and shows off the usual distinction between a Hepplewhite and Sheraton sideboard. Sheratons have turned legs while Hepplewhites have squared tapered legs.
Another one from around 1800. This one has a nice shelf built into the top which would have been quite the upgrade in this time. Nice bail pulls to top it off.
Another from around 1800 is this serpentine front sideboard with Sheraton style knobs.
I’m gonna make a bunch of these posts because I enjoy learning about the styles so much myself, so I hope everyone else is interested too!
Have a good one!
A chair and a stool are two different distinct types of furniture. The stool came first. One of the earlier forms of seat furniture. A stool consists of a single seat, without back or armrests, on a base of either three or four legs. A chair is any piece of furniture with a raised surface that can be used to individually sit on. A chair without a backrest and armrest is considered a stool.
In the early times, stools were quite general and chairs were rare. Chairs were reserved for the gilded classes. Kings, noblemen, and statesmen used them to conduct their business or hold court. While your average pleb was relegated to sitting on stools, chests, or even the ground. Also, chairs in early times, were always ornate and exquisite, made from expensive material like ivory, bronze and acacia wood. Decorated with beautiful carvings and designs, they were handcrafted works of art.
In the 17th century, except in high society, there was often only one chair, that for head of the household. As the 18th century wore on, this condition was reversed. The progress of the position of women can almost be measured by this change. The Queen Anne, featured below, is quite rare partly for this reason. Foot stools of an ordinary character have always, of course, been in use.
To leave you with a dubious fact, according to the Furniture Treasury, most chairs have over time been cut down or destroyed because every third generation a short person occurs.