Although mahogany as a wood of choice for cabinet makers had been introduced into Britain quite early on in the 18th century, walnut also continued to be used. However, severe shortages due to overuse of walnut by cabinet makers in Britain, and severe blights in France, resulted in French embargoes on exports to Britain, and by 1750 mahogany was being used as a fine alternative to walnut for the best cabinetry.
One of the main advantages of mahogany was its close grain, its durability, colouration and fine patina. The girth of trees were wide which allowed for large flat surfaces used for tables and wardrobes, plus ‘flame’ and other attractive figurations made it ideal for decorative veneering. There were two main varieties used, called ‘Spanish’ and ‘Jamaican’, which came from the West Indies and Cuba.
Satinwood, imported from Puerto Rico from 1760 onwards, provided a much lighter alternative to mahogany and other woods such as kingwood, rosewood, purplewood and ebony were imported to create exquisite antique marquetry furniture decorations on the flatter and plainer surfaces of the Neo-classical styling that was now coming into vogue.
Antique furniture was now complementing architecture and interior designers such as William Kent (1684-1748) and Robert Adam (1728-92) used these woods to the full to design and create the grand matching country house schemes that they wanted. Both of these designers looked to the classicism of Ancient Greece and Rome, although Kent veered more towards the Baroque and used heavy carving, gilding and marble, where Adam’s designs were much lighter and more elegant incorporating classical marquetry furniture motifs and fluting tapering legs.
When looking for period and revival Neo-classical antique cabinets in Preston , Lancashire and Cumbria, local antiques dealers will always be pleased to inform you on the many different types of wood that were used to create the classical effect.
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