Dressing For Success With This Sheraton Period Inspired Find!

May 31st, 2010 by
According to legendary designer Coco Chanel, “Fashion is architecture:  it is a matter of proportions.” So is it possible that fashion could also be perfectly scaled furniture as well?  Take a look at this remarkable antique dressing table that I recently spotted at New England Antique Show’s Spring Fever Antiques and Design Show and Sale and decide for yourself!
It wouldn’t be hard to “dress for success” with this handsome piece of furniture in your boudoir. Here we have an unmarked, two-tiered Sheraton Period inspired dressing table from around 1830.  It originally belonged to a family from southern Maine who had connections to New York City.  It is constructed from solid cherry with bird’s eye maple veneers on the front face of each of its four drawers.  Each drawer has simple cherry knobs; the top right drawer has a lock (perhaps to keep secret treasures, well, secret). The back of the piece is detailed with two mirror-image curved swirls, which compliment the table’s otherwise rather linear appearance.  The table’s straight legs are slightly tapered and are finished with arrow-style feet, meaning that they are cylinder-shaped, tapered, and separated from the leg by a turned ring.
The wood used on this dressing table is simply gorgeous, even after nearly 180 years! The piece is primarily constructed from cherry.  The wood from cherry trees has been recognized for centuries for its superior woodworking properties.  As a matter of fact, there is evidence that the Greeks and Romans used cherry for furniture making as early as 400 BC!  Cherry wood starts out a rich red-brown color and darkens with age; it takes finishes well and retains its satiny, glowing appearance due to its generally uniform texture.
The other “eye catching” wood on this piece is the bird’s eye maple detailing on the drawers. No one really knows what causes this pattern of tiny swirling eyes in the wood grain; scientists believe it is a combination of genetics, location, climate, microbes, and other factors.  In addition to the maple as seen on this table, the “bird’s eye” pattern can also be found in maple, ash, mahogany, beech, walnut, and birch lumber.  Because wood with bird’s eye qualities is relatively rare, it can cost several times that of other woods.  This helps to explain why it is used in limited quantities and as a veneer on this Sheraton Period dressing table.
So what exactly is the “Sheraton Period?” The Sheraton period dates from approximately 1790 through 1820.  It is named after Thomas Sheraton, an Englishman who lived from 1751 through 1806.  Sheraton started out his career as a cabinet builder, but in his late 30’s he moved to London where he became a consultant and teacher in the furniture industry.   Sheraton is best known for his writings, which were quite influential at the time. These publications included “The Cabinet Maker’s and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book” in 1791, “The Cabinet Directory” in 1803, and “Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer and General Artist’s Encyclopaedia” in 1805.  Interestingly, it is believed that Sheraton never actually built any of the items featured in his books, so the “Sheraton Period” refers to a type of design rather than a specific manufacturer or artist.
Furniture from the Sheraton Period has several typical features, many which are evident on the dressing table under discussion. Overall, pieces are rectilinear and symmetrical in style. They have a study but elegant look to them.  Sheraton designs have legs that tend to be straight and tapered; sometimes they are reeded or have detailing to resemble classical columns.  They also usually have simple rectangular or cylindrical feet; heavier pieces may have bracket or bun feet.  Another very common feature is the use of more than one type of wood for decorative purposes.
Knock on wood, I would like to thank Martin Ferrik of Martin J. Ferrick Antiques of Lincolnville, ME sharing this nearly two century old piece fine piece of furniture with me. Martin specializes in American and fine arts and is a regular dealer at New England Antique Shows throughout the year.  Wooden it be nice to make this piece yours?  Email Martin at martinjferrick@yahoo.com for more information!
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