Antique cabinets refer to furniture containing one or more doors, often with drawers, shelves and compartments. Cabinets can be partially glazed.
Initially cabinet makers 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 using 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: the Big Three were much reproduced in ‘revivals’ throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, sometimes even attracting a following in their own right with collectors of ‘revival’ furniture prepared to pay remarkably high prices.
Antique Cabinets in the Box House Antiques Collection include this exceptionally small and beautiful walnut bureau cabinet:
Always popular are cabinets with glazed sections. These serve well to display porcelain, silver, books and Objets d’art. Most cabinets will originally be fitted with a lock. Similarly cabinets with open shelves and storage space can be useful in dining rooms, and last but not least there is the all important ‘drinks cabinet’ displaying decanters and glasses with the bottles concealed behind doors.