Living in multicultural Britain, it is often hard to settle on something that is quintessentially British. The monarchy for the royalists amongst us comes to mind or perhaps antique furniture.
Britain has been a nation of multicultural influences for many hundreds of years and when we think of something very British like antique furniture, it becomes quite difficult to acknowledge the wealth of foreign influences that has affected the chest of drawers for example.
Certainly towards the end of the 17th century, life in Britain started to get much more complicated. Charles II returning from the court of Louis XIV of France brought many ideas on furniture design back with him which were then put into practice by English cabinet makers and later by French Huguenot craftsmen who arrived in Britain during the short reign of James II (1685-1689). Italian, Indian Chinese and of course French styling already formed part of the many multicultural influences of the court of Louis XIV. When William and Mary (1689-1702) arrived from Holland, Britain also received an injection of Dutch design diluted by Spanish and Moorish influences to add to the already multicultural mix.
The William and Mary chest of drawers is perhaps the most significant piece of furniture to emerge at this time although bureaus, bookcases and cabinets were all now being made in quantity. The chest of drawers now had a pine carcass with oak lined drawers, and was veneered in walnut. Oyster veneering because of its likeness to the seafood, cut from laburnum instead of walnut, emerged as a popular pattern during this period. The whole piece was then placed on bun feet with pear drop handles to the drawers and forms the common shape we think of today.
Late 17th century William and Mary walnut chests of drawers can still be found. When looking for period and revival walnut antique chests, Lancashire and Cumbria has a wealth of antiques dealers who will be able to help.
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