18th Century Furniture
The people of this country don’t seem solicitous of having good dwellings or more furniture than is absolutely necessary.
- Mary Granville (1700-1788), writer
Increasing trade and economic development, together with an element of political independence, brought considerable wealth to the landed aristocracy and merchant classes in 18th century Ireland.
Towns and cities benefited from the widening of prominent streets. Elegant Georgian houses appeared in urban and rural settings and their nouveau riche owners patronised skilled craftsmen.
In furniture, mahogany from the West Indies were the preferred wood, although walnut was still used. The designs of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), George Hepplewhite (1727-1786), and Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) dramatically influenced furniture design.
A distinctive Irish style developed characterized by cabriole legs and ball and claw feet. Seats narrowed towards the back resulting in a round form. Popular carved motifs included an eagle’s head, birds, rosettes, and scalloped shells. Due to increased trade links with the Far East there was a rise in the popularity of Chinese decorative work, Japanese lacquer and Japanned furniture.
From the middle to the end of the century satinwood and other costly veneers were used. Neo-classical styles flourished and painted decoration and delicate mouldings were popular. Chair backs were made in a variety of shapes including oval, heart and shield. Their general design became simplified with tapered or fluted legs.