1. Chairs have been around since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, serving as seats and thrones for some of the most important and influential people in world history. Prior to the 16thcentury, chairs were reserved for nobility and religious figures. Common people generally sat on benches and stools.

    The vast diversity of chair designs throughout the history of this class of furniture, demonstrates the countless attempts to meet the challenges presented by the structure of a well-crafted chair. The seemingly infinite selection of styles of antique dining chairs makes it a necessity to become familiar with the different eras and styles before choosing the perfect seating collection.

    How to Identify Antique Dining Chairs

    According to an article in an 1897 issue of “The Standard Designer,” a 19thcentury women’s periodical, a comfortable dining room chair should have a seat that is not too soft and at the appropriate height as to allow the sitter to maneuver eating utensils with ease. The person designated as the coffee or tea pourer or as the carver, would have a dining chair that was higher than the rest with a higher back and the chair would generally have arm rests.

    Antique dining chairs come in a multitude of colors and styles. Peruse books and websites about antique furniture and familiarize yourself with the different styles and time periods. To be classified as an authentic antique, the furniture must be 100 or more years old. There are a number of telltale signs you can look for to determine the authenticity of antique dining chairs.

    • Wear on the feet – All four feet of an antique dining chair should show signs of wear and tear from years of being rubbed, bumped, scooted and dragged across floors. You may also notice water stains on the feet of the chairs from floor mopping.
    • Wear on the arm rests – If an antique dining chair has arms, they should show signs of wear-scratches, stains and some wearing away of the finish.
    • Wear on the chair stretchers – The cross pieces joining the chair legs together are known as the chair stretchers. The stretchers withstand most of the weight and pressure to hold the sitter while stabilizing the chair, so there may be cracks or repairs present. With some antique dining chairs, the stretchers may be positioned so as to allow the sitter’s feet to rest on them, wearing away the finish of the wood.
    • Joints – Most antique furniture should have joints that were glued together, not nailed or screwed. Loose joints can be an indicator of old glue and authenticity of the chair. Look for joints that are not precisely the same size or fit together perfectly since antique dining chairs would have been hand-made.
    • Wear on the seats – The seat of a plank chair should be worn smooth and if it is painted, there may be paint that is chipped, scratched or worn away from the seat and back. Non-painted chairs will often have a shine to the finish from a wax build-up over the years.

    Another way to authenticate antique dining chairs is to have an antiques appraiser examine the chair to determine its age.

    Jacobean Revival Style

    The most distinctive feature of this style of antique dining chairs and tables is the use of antique or black oak which was also called “bog oak.” With a dull, unvarnished finish this wood is ebony in color. The Jacobean style of antique Old English dining room chairs included sturdy pieces with ball feet and heavy carvings. Other typical features included inlays (inserted pieces of contrasting material) and geometric shapes. The chairs were upholstered with leather, brocade or velvet. Jacobean style was also known by a few other names.

    • Old English
    • Renaissance Revival
    • Jacobethan
    • Tudor Revival (more common when relating to architecture)

    Jacobean Revival antique dining chairs are ideal for a more formal look and are best suited to a warm-toned room to add a subtle contrast to the darkness of the wood. Usually a complete dining set in this style will have at least two armless side chairs and two chairs with arms for seating at the head and foot of the table.

    Chippendale Style

    English cabinetmaker, Thomas Chippendale produced the most well-known style of antique furniture. He preferred to work in mahogany, and his designs reflected the popular English style of the time encompassing Gothic, English and Chinese motifs. Much of Chippendale’s creative energy went into the intricate designs of his chair backs. Recognizable by its extensive and detailed carvings, Chippendale-style furniture dominated the American furniture market until the 1770s.

    Verifying a piece of Chippendale furniture can prove difficult as he never used a maker’s mark. All the furniture was hand-made so joints will likely be somewhat irregular and may show tool marks. The only way to ensure it is a Chippendale is to find the original bill for the piece or similar documentation.

    Other Popular Styles

    Exemplified by cabriole legs and simple lines, Queen Anne-style furniture was crafted in 18th-century England. The seats of the chairs were typically horseshoe-shaped with unique carved scroll and shell motifs both on the crest and knees of the chairs’ cabriole legs.

    Windsor chairs, created during the 16thcentury, were made from steam-bent elm, oak, ash, pine, poplar or maple. One of the distinguishing features of Windsor chairs were the joints-circular holes bored into one piece with the matching tapered end of another piece inserted into the hole. Holed-and-wedge joinery made glue unnecessary in assembling the chair.

    Value of Antique Dining Chairs

    Before accurately determining the value of antique dining chairs, you must be able to determine the style, maker and age. The more chairs you have from a particular dining set, the more valuable each chair. There are a number of factors that will affect the value of an antique dining chair.

    • Manufacturer
    • Provenance (place of origin)
    • Condition
    • Current market conditions
    • Desirability

    An effective method to find the current value of an antique dining chair is to find similar chairs at antique shops or online auctions. The chairs you are comparing need to be exactly the same as your chair and in the same condition. Once you know the period style for your antique dining chairs, you can also check a price guide for that particular period.

Leave a Reply