How to sit with style, comfort and a sense of decorative function
The chair is a notable object of antiquity with its original purpose being more noble than just somewhere to park one’s derriere. Historically chairs were an article of state and dignity and went hand-in-hand with authority, occupied only by grand types such as state leaders, kings, emperors and treacherous rulers. By around the 16th century everyone wanted a bit of the sitting action and chairs became more commonplace as they evolved in shape, size, purpose and popularity. Today’s world of chairs has every possible human seating need covered and it’s hard to imagine a time when sitting was purely the privilege of the wealthy and powerful.
Our shows offer the chair buyer a dazzling choice of seating, ranging from traditional, comfortable and functional to the more decorative and quirky. Cinema seats are a great find and work well in a setting with limited space due to the ingenious flip-up seat design. They often get snapped up by shop fitters but if you can get to them first they’re a great addition to a home hallway or cosy TV room. This row of cast-iron sided, 1940’s seats gained a lot of attention on the Retro & Rustic stand at July’s Loseley Decorative Home & Salvage Show.
You can’t beat a salon chair for a seat that is delicate looking yet strong. This 19th century French pair were originally gilt, and although now painted small patches of gold shine through the chipped paintwork offering a window into their history. These chairs were generally used in a boudoir and are always a winner in the bedroom. Antiques and brocante seller Arlette-Marie Spencer, who was selling the pair pictured here, says that the salon chair’s resilient nature makes them hugely popular for garden rooms and outdoors.
Jams Ironwork mostly deal in vintage industrial lighting but they can’t resist the odd chair, like this 1930’s leather, wood and steel machinists example. This is the kind of chair that once renovated can be put to good use but works just as well as an eye-catching prop. It’s easy to imagine it placed strategically in an industrial living space but it would be just as at home in an office or around a kitchen table in the company of an eclectic mix of chairs.
These faded-blue, slightly institutional looking, chairs sourced from India may be the equivalent of the old tubular steel and plywood stacking chairs many of us remember from our school days (as seen in the background). This type of chair is very fashionable at the moment and are bought up by the van-load by interior designers re-fitting restaurants and cafes - they’ve become a key player in the canteen look. A chair with a strong colour like this looks great next to natural wood and would work really well with a rustic table.
There is something about seeing an armchair, a place which once offered sanctuary and comfort that can now only offer a slightly unsatisfactory sit, in need of TLC that tugs on the heart-strings. There are many professional upholsterers out there hunting down such chairs but we see an increasing number of hobby upholsterers at our shows who are keen to snap up their next ‘project’. This battered old armchair with its quite likely William Morris fabric is screaming out to be given a new lease of life and will no doubt reign strong once again in some lucky person's home.
There are often curious little chairs to be found at our shows and this original 1920‘s salesman’s replica on Reclamation Warriors stand is no exception. Size-wise it could be placed somewhere between dolls-house furniture and children’s furniture and could easily add an Alice in Wonderland perspective to a room, making it even 'curiouser and curiouser'. Of course it may also be the perfect place for something, or someone, very small to sit.
Talking of small sitters, children’s chairs are readily available at our shows and seem to cause great delight to our younger visitors. There’s a definite charm about little chairs and these salvaged, wooden, nursery chairs are a wonderful addition to a child’s bedroom. Many of the ones we see come from eastern Europe and generally boast wonderfully faded colours. They make a good focal point at the end of a hallway and look very cute with a vase of flowers popped on the seat.
American author Henry David Thoreau had a good philosophy on chairs ‘I had three chairs: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society’. Add a couple of decorative ones and I think we’ve got chairs covered.