Without a doubt Thomas Sheraton was the last and perhaps the best of English furniture designers and makers, adding his name to the top four along with Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite and Robert Adam. The Sheraton furniture style dominated the years between 1790 and 1806.
Unlike his designer contemporaries or predecessors Thomas Sheraton was barely able to support himself through his trade. It has been recorded that Sheraton was not a personable type and perhaps because of this did not gain many commissions from those who could pay well. Yet, Sheraton was probably superior in his skills to other furniture designers of the time. His designs excelled in perfect proportion, simplicity, restraint, and good taste in ornamental design.
Sheraton’s best work was influenced by the French style of Louis XVI. Later in Sheraton’s career he was forced by popular demand to incorportate the French Empire style although it is said that his work near the end of his career was not inspired. His later designs were and remain a disappointment. However, Sheraton should not be judged by his latter work but by his earlier designs.
Thomas Sheraton is perhaps best known for his cabinet work, his sideboards and small tables. When comparing Sheraton to Hepplewhite, Sheraton’s chairs were structurally sounder and more handsome. The Sheraton style differed from Hepplewhite’s in that his chairs were well braced underneath, the backs were straight and rectangular, the legs were often turned or tapered and occasionally fluted.
Cabinets and taller pieces created by Sheraton were often thinner than those of Hepplewhite giving them a more linear look. When applying veneers Sheraton often used oval patterns and designs as opposed to the rectangular shapes that were prominent in Hepplewhite’s designs.
Sheraton died in 1806 but his designs have continued to grow in interest and value.