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Thomas Sheraton (1750-1806) was an English cabinetmaker, drawing master, designer, publisher and preacher. All these activities kept him busy but barely earned him a living. He died a financial failure.
His designs were widely accepted, and they greatly influenced American furniture.
Sheraton style is characterized by square, straight-lined, solidly constructed furniture. Legs were slender, either round or square, tapering toward the turned, spade or block foot. Chair backs were square, often with a central panel rising slightly above the top rail; arms generally started high on the uprights and swept downward in an extended "S" shape to the supports which often were a continuation of the front legs. Stretchers were common, often "X" shaped, and part of the seat frame was allowed to show below the upholstery, a contrast to Hepplewhite's covered aprons.
Sheraton enjoyed detail and decorated his furniture wherever possible, leaving few plain surfaces. He used carving, inlay and painting. The painted fancy chair was exceedingly popular. Mahogany was the preferred wood of the Sheraton style although such woods as satinwood, tulipwood, sycamore and rosewood for inlays were also used. Some of the woods used for veneers and inlays were stained to even richer colors than natural, and beautiful grains were chosen.
Decoration typical of Sheraton consisted of fluting, reeding, and spiral turning. Designs employed were lyre, urns, fan shaped and small ornamental disks, acanthus leaf, swags and stars.
Brasses were round, oval or hexagonal, and round glass knobs were used.
Toward the end of Sheraton's career the French Empire style had begun to appear and he made some furniture in this style. Due to this influence, later Sheraton furniture merges into Direc toire and Empire styles, providing some confusion in attempting to define certain examples.
Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles overlap considerably in many instances and are difficult to tell apart at times. There were no copyrights at that time and furniture makers "borrowed" designs from each other regularly.