The History of Hepplewhite Furniture
Hepplewhite buffets, dressers, and hutches are among our most popular pieces here at MegMade. George Hepplewhite was one of the most prominent furniture makers in the 18th century, alongside Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. Not much is known about his personal life, but his wife preserved a lot of his drawings and work after his death, so his artistic legacy continues. There is some speculation that, because we know very little about him, Alice Hepplewhite was actually the designer and used her husband’s name as a pseudonym. I sort of hope that’s the real story…you go Alice!
Hepplewhite pieces often have swelling in the front, a slight curve in the middle sections. Most are made of mahogany. His furniture is known for straight lines and, during the era, much smaller moldings than had been seen before in furniture design. What people loved then about these pieces is still what we love about them today! They combine straight and curved lines. They look great paired with curvier, Frenchy pieces or with mid-century pieces.
The hardware is what is most easily recognizable. It is an oval shape with a hanging pull on the bottom half that perfectly parallels the shape of the oval. Some have ornate designs, others are very simple.
We like to finish these pieces with wood stained tops and painted bases because the tops of the pieces usually have a slight overhang from the rest of the structure. When there is a clear distinction, it is fun to play with two-tones or stain and paint combos. We often do the buffets in Polo Blue matte (or gloss!) and stain the top in walnut.
When we paint these pieces in darker colors, it is nice to polish up the brass hardware to it’s original shine for more contrast. When we paint the pieces in white or lighter colors, we often leave it the tarnished color for the same reason. It’s not a rule, but it’s usually what we choose when it’s up to us!
When we classify these pieces as “Hepplewhite” people don’t usually know what that means. I hope this helps give you a little background on the pieces! It’s fun to learn the history behind the different styles 🙂