This Thanksgiving, while either recovering from that third piece of pumpkin pie, or perhaps milling about and making room for the first piece, you may be at your great-aunt's, parents' or in-laws' house, utilizing that once-a-year Dining Room. You may be in Philadelphia, Boston, Newport or New York, perhaps even abroad. While you wait for that football game to start (or maybe end), take some time to look around at your surroundings; chances are, the furniture that surrounds you was in some way influenced by Thomas Chippendale, author of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, an 18th century guide to creating furniture "in the most fashionable taste".
This book was revolutionary; instead of waiting for styles to trickle down from the elite, anyone could purchase this book and create the styles within. Furniture makers of the time could use it entirely as a guide or merely as inspiration, thus commencing a period of furniture distinguishable by region, if not by maker. The Director sold extremely well in the rapidly expanding Philadelphia, as well as New York, but was not popular in Boston or Newport.
Philadelphia, with its abundance of English immigrants (and their wealth), embraced the more ornamental aspects of the Chippendale style and rivaled London in design and execution. New England audiences preferred a much more restrained look, still appreciating the stout proportions of the new trend, but with significantly less ornamentation. Interestingly, while not in Chippendale's Director, the ball-and-claw foot was first used in Boston in the 1730s and coincided with the Chippendale Period.
So, this year, while you're in Philadelphia, Boston, Newport, New York, or really anywhere, when you're in that Special Occasion dining room, maybe you'll take notice of that drop-leaf table, sideboard, or even that chair that you're sitting in and appreciate the age and craftsmanship and journey it took to get to that spot, and then appreciate your own.
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