Chairs, Chairs and More
people take chairs for granted. There are so many kinds and styles that
its often hard to choose which ones to use. But before chairs came
into their own in the 15th Century, stools, about the height of a chair
seat, were even more common. They were made in great numbers and doubled
as seats and tables, especially in the homes of common folk.
Chairs of all kinds became more important than stools
because the new styles transformed them into movable, decorative
furniture instead of simple seats.
Side chairs and armchairs, which were really side
chairs with wood arms attached, offered little choice when it came to
comfort. In addition to solid backs, there were slat-back chairs, which
had three or more wide and usually shaped wooden pieces horizontally
across the back. The banister-back chair had fairly wide vertical slats
surmounted by a crest or top rail. Some of these top rails, as well as
the banisters, were more richly carved than others.
The latter part of the 17th Century, technically known
as the Restoration period in England, brought forth lighter and more
adaptable chairs. Special turnings, scrolled and more elaborate
stretchers, became fashionable. Decorations expanded to include lacquer,
marguetry, and some inlay.The wing chair appeared before 1700. It was probably the first
comfortable one and certainly the first upholstered one. The wings
attached to the frame of the back served the same purpose as hangings on
a bed--that is, they cut off drafts. Earlier, settees had been no more
than wood benches with arms and backs. Between 1660 and 1690, sofas
began to have covered arms and backs.
From this time forward, to identify the period to
which side chairs or armchairs belong, the characteristics of certain
parts must be noted. The shape of the front legs, also the back legs,
and the kind of feet were usually typical. Stretchers and their
placement are almost as important. Stretchers disappeared during some
periods-the Queen Anne chairs designed by Thomas Chippendale, for
instance. The back of a chair and particularly the vertical or
horizontal pieces or splats and the crest rail were subject to many
changes, and are perhaps easiest to keep in mind.
A radically different style of chair appeared during
the Queen Anne period that was called the corner or roundabout chair.
This had a low back that encircled two sides of the seat, the latter
placed diagonally so that it formed a right-angled corner. All chairs
had a softly curving structure, for they were shaped to fit the body.
Side chairs and wooden armchairs often had a high, shaped back with one
wide, vase-shaped splat.
more articles by Bob Brooke, please visit
his Web site.
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