‘A Pleasure to Grasp and a Delight to Behold’

Reading ‘At Home, a Short History of Private Life’ by author Bill Bryson the below passage on the history of mahogany stood out for its eloquence.

Mahogany was introduced to British carpentry in the mid 18th century and soon superseded oak as the wood of choice in fashionable households. It soon becomes apparent why…

It could be carved and fretted into the delicate shapes that perfectly suited the exuberance of rococo, yet was strong enough to be a piece of furniture. No wood had had these characteristics before: suddenly furniture had a sculptural quality.

The central uprights of the chairs – the splats could be worked in a way that was wondrous to a people who had never seen anything less clunky than a Windsor chair.

The legs had flowing curved and luscious  feet, the arms swept their way to terminal scrolls and volutes that were a pleasure to grasp and a delight to behold. Every chair Рindeed, every built thing in the house Рseemed suddenly to have elegance, style and fluidity

The ability to carve finely and with precision gave the great cabinetmakers of the 18th century greater freedom of artistic expression.

These Theodore Alexander chairs in the style of Thomas Chippendale illustrate the boundless creativity enabled by this new medium.

The 'Classic Ball and Claw' has an ornately carved splat. The original Chippendale, circa 1770.

Delicate detailing replicates the Georgian elegance of the original

Note the finely carved ball and claw foot and the slender tapering of the cabriole leg

The 'Crested Chair', after an 18th century original at Althorp

This new and accommodating wood enabled a Golden Age of furniture making in the Georgian era and heralded an era of unrivalled innovation.

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