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Classic Chairs That Changed the World

We are continuing our journey into the history of chairs! Today, we're focusing on some of the most influential seat designs from 1700 - 1900. You could call these "The chairs of the Industrial Revolution."

THE WINDSOR CHAIR - (1710 - 1730)

Designer unknown, popular in England and The States.

The original designer of this classic spindle chair is unknown but there is a legend of it's creation: King George II was seeking shelter from a storm and arrived at a peasant's cottage. He was then given a multi-spindled chair to sit on that impressed him so much with it's comfort and simplicity that he asked his own furniture maker to create one for Windsor Castle. Did this actually happen? Who knows...probably not. What we DO know is that this chair quickly became en vogue and the style traveled to America by 1730. It's said to be the first mass-produced chair in the United States. It's style has been edited and perfected ever since. Modern versions fit with contemporary and minimalist homes while the traditional style remains a popular country kitchen staple.

LOUIS XV ARMCHAIR - (1715 - 1750)

Juste-Aurèle Meissonier Italian born, French designer

The Louis XV armchair uses Rococo motifs on a small frame - unlike it's massive predecessor. This piece focuses on femininity, asymmetry, and elaborate ornament. One can get a sense of the wealth culture by viewing the bronze work, ormolu, and detailed carvings. The round back and cabriole leg are defining features, as well as the use of colors associated with China and Japan, as Chinoiserie and lavish living were Europe's obsessions at the time.

THE QUEEN ANNE - (1720s - 1780s)

William Savery - The States

This formal chair originated during the reign of Queen Anne but was not made popular (nor given it's name) until 1720, after she died. This style favors a refined appearance with graceful lines and high-quality dark woods such as walnut, cherry, and mahogany. The fiddle back and S curves are common features among all Queen Anne furniture. A nod to Ancient Egyptian chairs, the pad feet are also typical of this style. You're likely to find this style chair all across the world inside traditional-style homes.

LOUIS XVI ARMCHAIR - (1760 - 1790)

Jean-Henri Riesener German-born French designer

The Louis XVI chair is a return to Greek and Roman models. A true neoclassic style with fluted legs, a rounded back, and elegant gentle curves, it's a far cry from the Louis XV Rococo chair of Slide 2. Chairs from this time frame feature much less floral marquetry but the many gilded surfaces & high craftsmanship remain. The focus on plush comfort is also still evident. While Chinoiserie continued to be popular, a new love of geometrical patterns is seen in furniture from this era.

ORIGINAL SHAKER - (1775 - 1825)

Shaking Quakers - The States

This chair was developed by a religious sect commonly known as 'Shakers' or Quaking Shakers. They had guiding principles of simplicity, functionality, and honesty. Their beliefs are reflected in their furniture, which is consistently unadorned, handcrafted, practical, and made to last. The ladder back and simple tapered leg style seen here are common themes in the Shaker chair design. Today, this style is popular in both traditional and contemporary designs; and the Shakers are celebrated as the first minimalists!


Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi - Italy

You may recognize this chair as the "Wedding Chair" or "Tiffany Chair". It has become a universal workhorse in the event planning industry. This light yet robust chair was originally made from Cherrywood. Then, in the mid-1900s, it was on trend to make them out of brass and other materials. The signature bamboo-style joints won this chair numerous medals and ever since they were used at Jackie & John Kennedy's wedding, they have signaled sophistication and elegance at any party.

THE BENTWOOD - (1850s)

Michael Thonet - Austria

Often called "The Chair of Chairs", this design uses the novel idea of using steam to bend wood. This chair won the gold medal in the 1867 World Fair in Paris and quickly became recognized as THE cafe chair. Numerous versions have been edited and remade, including a 1970s classic that we'll see later on! Ergonomic, lightweight, and absolutely gorgeous, Thonet Chairs have our hearts forever and ever amen.

ART NOUVEAU BERGERE - (1891 - 1892)

Louis Comfort Tiffany - The States

Louis Comfort Tiffany is famous for his lamps. (You know them - stained glass; featuring natural elements like plants, insects, and birds). But his furniture designs are also an important part of history. Here you can view the distinctive "micro-mosaic" marquetry and detailed yet stylistic floral carvings, predominant motifs of the Art Nouveau movement. These sophisticated chairs blend the Sheraton leg style with ball and claw feet, reminiscent of more ancient designs.

THE MORRIS - (1865 / 1892)

William Morris - England / Gustav Stickley - States

The first reclining chair! Lazyboy's much more refined and low-tech ancestor. Here I've sampled the original version, on the left, created by William Morris in 1865 and the Mission-style version, on the right, designed by Gustav Stickley in 1904. Both focus on comfort and adjustability. They are unequivocally cozy armchairs. There are hundreds of styles of the Morris Chair, each depicting the maker's own values. An interesting case study indeed.

Come back next week for some Modern and Iconic chairs.

<3 Love to all!

xxx HLB

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