The Hepplewhite dining table is a popular item amongst antique aficionados. This simple yet elegant table has been a favorite for over 200 years and can still be found in antique shops and furniture auctions today.
Characteristics of Hepplewhite Furniture
Hepplewhite furniture dates back to about 1780 through 1810. This type of furniture is named after British cabinet maker and designer George Hepplewhite. Hepplewhite was not well-known during his lifetime; however, two years after his death in 1776, his widow published a book of his furniture designs called The Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer's Guide. Hepplewhite's furniture became very popular in America, where the style is described as neoclassical.
Identify Hepplewhite Tables and Furniture
Characteristics of Hepplewhite furniture include straight legs on tables that were either tapered or square. Complementing these straight legs were rectangular spade feet or tapered arrow feet. The shield-back chair is a common design seen in Hepplewhite furniture.
Other characteristics include the following:
- A delicate, graceful appearance
- Motifs featuring swags, ribbons, feathers, urns, and trees
- Curved or circular geometric shapes
- Small carvings and painted designs
- Inlaid patterns and veneers
Know the Woods Used in Hepplewhite Tables
The wood used to produce Hepplewhite furniture was usually sourced locally. In Britain, the furniture could be made from mahogany, satinwood, maple, tulipwood, birch, or rosewood. American-made versions of this furniture were often made of ash or pine, and it's common to see maple drop-leaf tables in the Hepplewhite style. Contrasting veneers were used for the inlay work.
History of Hepplewhite Drop-Leaf Gate-Leg Dining Tables
Hepplewhite furniture was popular during the Federal Period in America (1790-1828). Geometric shapes and symmetry were part of the style in this era. Furniture was simple, delicate, and lightweight for easy portability. Neoclassical elements of furniture during the Federal Period included fluted or reeded tapered legs, as seen on the Hepplewhite drop-leaf, gate-leg dining table that was so popular in America at this time.
If you have ever been in a historical home that dates back to the late 1700s and early 1800s, you know that average homes were not very spacious during this time. Drop-leaf tables were good for saving space when the table was not in use. These tables were made with a fixed center and had hinged tops that fold down when they were not in use. The gate legs were able to swing out to support the top when the leaves were folded outward. These tables were first introduced in Britain.
Drop-leaf tables could seat from two to eight people. Most were made from mahogany, stood between 28" and 30" high, and had varying widths and lengths. These traditional looking wood tables would fit nicely with any traditional or contemporary style home furnishings. Because of their space saving features, they are perfect for smaller homes or apartments.
Where to Find Antique Hepplewhite Drop-Leaf Dining Tables
It's often easiest to find antique dining tables locally, since shipping these items can be costly and difficult. Look in local antique shops, at estate sales, and in the classified ads.
You can also find Hepplewhite tables at online auction sites, such as the following:
- Cowan's Auctions - Specializing in American furniture, among other things, this is a good source for finding a drop-leaf table.
- eBay - Always a great source for antiques, eBay allows sellers to list items like larger tables locally too.
- One of a Kind Antiques - With a large and constantly changing selection of items, this is a great place to find dining tables in the Hepplewhite style.
- Live Auctioneers - A large auction site, Live Auctioneers has a great selection of furniture.
If these auctions don't have the Hepplewhite dining table you want, keep checking back often as the inventory changes frequently. Local antique dealers and estate sales are other sources you can try to find Hepplewhite dining tables. These tables often sell for $200-$400, depending on the condition of the table. However, older examples by fine furniture makers can sell for thousands.
Build Your Own Hepplewhite Drop-Leaf Style Dining Table
Real antique furniture can be difficult to find. If you really like the style of these drop-leaf tables and are not looking for a genuine antique, you can find plans to build one of these tables yourself. If you continue to pass your custom-built dining table along to future generations in your family, someday the table you build could become an antique.
Hepplewhite drop-leaf dining table plans are available to purchase online at Tools for Working Wood. The plan was designed by Carlyle Lynch and includes measured drawings, a detailed parts list with measurements, a list of hardware, and notes containing extra information that may be valuable, such as details that describe the construction process of these dining tables.
A Timeless Dining Table Style
Some furniture styles are timeless, as is the case with Hepplewhite furniture. This simple yet elegant design of Hepplewhite's drop-leaf dining tables are as appealing today as they were in Colonial times.