Early American furniture was defined by ornate painted designs. Often called "fancy" furniture, the style was originally popularized by George Hepplewhite, an English cabinetmaker who published a manual of patterns for painted furniture in the late-eighteenth century. The look was widely copied by furniture makers in Europe and North America and led to a tradition of painted furniture that flourished throughout the nineteenth century.
Expert colorist and decorative painter Mark Uriu joins Martha today to demonstrate how a set of plain tag-sale chairs can be transformed into "fancy" pieces by painting them with classical motifs. For inspiration, Mark and Martha research the kind of patterns they would like to use by looking through books, including Cynthia Schaffner's "American Painted Furniture: 1660-1880," Dean Fales Jr.'s book of the same title, and "Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Regency Furniture" by F. Lewis Hinckley. From these classic examples, they chose several ideas, including a bordered floral pattern, an Empire-style oak-leaf design, a more formal neo-classical motif, and a traditional eighteenth-century fan motif. The technique Mark uses here to create a painted chair with gold-leaf details can be modified to create whatever designs inspire you.