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Have a Seat in Beautiful Antique Chairs

As I was going through old copies of Southern Living magazine and trying to part with the 10-year or older copies, I came across an article that remains solid advice.

The article refers to chairs with style and it covers the variety of big names in chair styles over the years (18th and 19th centuries). These names are good to know and understand if you’re into antiques and even if you’re not — yet.

I’ve always thought that antique furniture adds character to a room. Blending the past with today’s fashions gives your home a strength of character and a timeless look. So, it makes sense to learn the basics.

If you come across a well-made chair in an estate sale, antique shop or second hand store, it can go a long way to creating a cozy corner or extra seating for any room. Just make sure it’s strong and capable of its purpose, especially if you have active children, pets and busy lifestyles.

Dollar for dollar — antique furniture is often superior to newly manufactured pieces that are glued at the joints and quickly mass produced.

Even new furniture manufacturers sell weathered finishes and faux antiques in their showrooms to entice shoppers who might not be experienced in shopping for the real thing.

Chairs and furniture are classified by design eras. Some of the big names are Chippendale, Duncan Phyfe, Queen Ann, Sheraton, Regency, Victorian and Mission. I’ve included a little about each in the column today to help with identification.

For further study, pick up an old copy of “The Dictionary of Interior Design,” by Martin Pegler or the newer reference book, “The Fairchild Dictionary of Interior Design,” by Mark Hinchman. Both are handy one volume libraries with entries and illustrations of every decorating term imaginable.

The noted 18th century English cabinet maker, Thomas Chippendale created furniture that is often ornate and was influenced by French, Gothic and Oriental designs. It remains popular today and is referenced in furniture shops, both antique and new.

Duncan Phyfe was a Scottish cabinet maker who worked in America in the late 18th century and early 19th century. His designs are often referred to as American Regency and two of his signature motifs repeated on his work are the lyre and the plume.

Queen Anne furniture refers to the style in vogue during the reign of Queen Anne, 1702-1714. Key elements in identifying this style include cabriole legs, shell carvings and claw and ball feet.

Considered the last of the great 18th century furniture makers, Thomas Sheraton published the “Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book.” His trademarks are straighter lines, satinwood veneers and inlays, with an overall refinement of style.

Regency refers to the era of the English time of George IV (regent). It shows an influence from Greek, Roman and Egyptian motifs and is dramatic but simpler in style that some of the others.

Victorian furniture is eclectic and generally massive. Because the era was so long, 1837-1901, it includes many variations but usually it features dark woods, ornate carvings and marble tops.

Another chair style that is classic is the Windsor, popular in the early 18th century. This chair has back made of vertical spindles and were often used in the kitchen or less formal rooms. The name is derived from Windsor, England, where the chair has its roots.

Mission furniture is one that you see reproduced a lot today.

With its bold, straight lines, it complements the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th to early 20th centuries and is usually found in oak. Gustav Stickley is the big name in mission furniture.

Old furniture was often made by hand and from real wood, not fiberboard, plastic and plywood. Oak, cherry, chestnut, elm, black walnut woods — all reflect the quality of old furniture — quality that you don’t find easily today. Nails were used less than dovetail joints, which is standard in antiques and results in durability and strength.

You can tell the age of furniture by the size of the dovetail, with older dovetails being bigger and less uniform.

Really old (early 18th century) furniture often has pegs instead of dovetails joining it. Scallops and pegs for joining indicated late 19th century furniture Victorian woodworking.

Restoring an antique chair or other furniture item is always rewarding.

The fine old wood and detailing is worth the effort and there is a pride in sharing antiques with visitors and friends that make for a welcoming home and a great conversation piece.

For suggestions on antique treasures or topics you would like to hear more about, email me at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or write to me in care of this newspaper.


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