Antique Chair Styles

Terry Hurley
Antique chairs look beautiful in any room

When you think of antique chair styles, what comes to your mind?

Antique Chairs

Do you picture a lovely klismos chair with flaring saber legs, a Savonarola chair with ornate carvings or a mission style chair with its simple lines and rush seat? Perhaps you thought of an entirely different style of chair that is representative of years past. Over the centuries many chair styles evolved, each taking its place in antique furniture history.

Chairs from Ancient Times

From the times of the ancient Egyptians until the sixteenth century, chairs were reserved for royalty and high-ranking members of the clergy. Ordinary people sat on benches, stools or chests without backs. The early chairs from the Medieval times were generally large and box-like in construction. They typically were adorned with a canopy and linen-fold panels and were set on a dias as a way of showing the importance of the person seated in the chair. Over the centuries these frame and panel chairs became lighter.

Another type of ancient chair that has remained popular since the times of the Romans, and resembles modern folding lawn chairs, is the x-shaped chair called a "curule." The curule developed into the more ornate style chair, called the "savonarola" chair.

The Age of Walnut

With the beginning of the Age of Walnut (approximately 1600 to 1730) chairs began finding their way into the homes of wealthy aristocratic families throughout Europe. By the mid 1600s chairs were becoming much more common, and also more comfortable, as upholstered chairs came into style. Many chairs at this time have beautiful detailed carvings and an open framework.

During this time upholstered chairs became lighter and smaller leading to the development of many different chair styles and seat heights. These developments made chairs more convenient and comfortable for uses other than sitting at a desk or dining table. Examples of different chair styles developed at this time include:

  • Armchairs
  • Sleeping chairs
  • Wing chairs
  • Lounge chairs
  • Slipper chairs

The Age of Mahogany and Satinwood

As the Age of Walnut drew to a close, and the furniture period known as the Age of Mahogany and Satinwood began (approximately 1730 to 1800) chairs with flowing lines became stylish including the klismos and cabriole chair leg designs. The cabriole leg is one of the most characteristic elements of furniture design of the period. The finish of the graceful cabriole leg ranges from a simple plain design such as a turned pad foot to highly detailed carved finishes including:

  • Ball and claw
  • Lion's feet
  • Hairy paw

During this time other antique chair styles were also developing and evolving. The following are several of these styles:

Revival Styles of the Nineteenth Century

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution furniture manufacturers were able to mass produce furniture, including chairs. This led to a resurgence of styles from earlier times which became known as revival styles. Revival styles included:

  • Egyptian
  • Roman
  • Gothic
  • Greek
  • Rococo
  • Renaissance
  • Italian
  • Eastern

Chairs made in the revival styles were generally adorned with ornamentation that was somewhat historically correct. Examples of ornamentations applied to revival style chairs include:

  • Inlays
  • Wood carvings
  • Metal carvings
  • Stencils

Examples of Antique Chair Styles

To see images of several of the many exquisite styles of antique chairs click on the following links:

With the many beautiful antique chair styles available, adding one to your decor brings charm to any room.

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Antique Chair Styles