Antique cabinets refer to furniture containing a door or doors. They often have drawers, shelves and compartments. Cabinets can be partially glazed.
Cabinet makers initially were provincial estate carpenters working mainly in oak and walnut. In the 18th century their trade became more of an art form, especially in London.
Several eminent cabinet makers emerged in England, publishing their designs. The following became known as ‘the big three’ :
Thomas Chippendale 1718-1779 was perhaps the most famous publishing his ‘Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director’ in 1754.
George Hepplewhite 1727-1786 Published ‘The Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers Guide’ in 1789.
Thomas Sheraton 1751-1806 Published ‘The Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers Drawing Book’ 1791/1794.
Under the guidance of these ‘big three’, antique cabinets were produced to the very highest levels of refinement. They had access to the best available mahogany, satinwood and other exotic veneers, with combinations of all these and more. Also they occasionally designed in the chinoiserie taste and with painted surfaces.
A word of warning when viewing antique cabinets, the big three were much reproduced in ‘revivals’ throughout the 19th and early 20th century. These revivals even attracted a following in their own right with collectors of ‘revival’ furniture prepared to pay remarkably high prices.