Chippendale Rosewood Bookcase

The star of our collection, an absolutely iconic piece

This piece beautifully sums up Thomas Chippendale’s early career in stylistic terms. Described in Chippendale’s invoice for £47.5s as “a Rosewood Bookcase wt. Rich carv’d and gilt ornam’ts on the top & doors a Writing drawer in the underpart & a Cloaths press & drawers at each End” it indicates the everyday practicality of the piece. This was something not only beautiful to behold, but something that was designed and built for utility as well.

This is borne out by the subtitle of Chippendale’s world famous “The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director” in which he published all of his designs, which was “Useful and Elegant Household furniture”.

Although called the “Rosewood Bookcase” it isn’t, in fact, made from Rosewood, rather it is crafted from padauk wood, naturally found in southern Asia and Africa. This exotic wood is more red in colour when first harvested, but mellows to a darker tone over time. The wood is inlaid with amarynth on the front panels to pick out a stunning honeycomb effect on the panels, which is unrivalled in existing Chippendale pieces.

It may seem that the bookcase looks a little modest in size for the grand dimensions of the Blue Drawing Room, and this is because the custom in the 18th Century was to receive guests in your bedroom, and so it was in the bedroom that you would have your best pieces of furniture and art as a backdrop for such activity. Compact and beautiful, it offered a variety of uses within the confines of a bedroom: as a bookcase; as writing desk; as a display case for china; and even more practically for the bedroom, as a clothes press. So you see, IKEA didn’t invent the concept of furniture utilising economy of space with multiple uses, and they have certainly never made anything as breathtakingly beautiful as this!