Buyer’s Guide to Antique Chairs
Below, you will find all you need to know when considering purchasing Antique Chairs, with some advice from one of our Antique Dealers and some handy tips from our resident Interior Designer.
Expert Antique Dealers Advice
Rob Hartley from Antique Furniture Direct suggests five key points to consider below when buying an antique chair. (www.antiquefurnituredirect.co.uk)
1. Is the chair solid and sturdy - Are there any loose joints?
Tip: Place your knee on the seat of the chair and gently press the back to test. Give the front legs a little squeeze. A little movement is acceptable, but very loose joints can mean expensive restoration is needed.
2. What is the condition of the upholstery? Can the existing upholstery be recovered or does it need completely re-upholstering?
Tip: Turn the chair upside down and check how tight the webbing is. If the webbing is torn or very loose then the chair may need completely reupholstering; this is an additional cost worth considering.
3. What is the finish of the wood like – does it have a good patina?
Tip: Check to see if the wood has a good depth of colour with good contrast of light and dark around the nooks and crannies where you would expect dust to fall and darken over time. Look for the best figured woods.
4. What is the condition of the chair frame like?
Tip: Look for any old mends or repairs and how well executed these repairs are. Check to see if it has any woodworm and look for “frass” to determine if it is still active or not.
5. How suitable is the design of the chair for its intended function?
TIP: Consider if your chair needs to be able to take a large weight regularly or is it merely a display item, a lot of antique chairs are suitable as dining chairs or desk chairs but many are not. Chairs with cross-stretchers will often fair well as dining chairs. Regency dining chairs with sabre legs make excellent desk chairs.
Interior Designers Guide to Buying Antique Chairs
Our in house Interior Designer, Lizzie Greenaway, suggests the following pieces of advice when looking to incorporate antique chairs into your home.
Decide upon a style of furniture. Antique chairs vary in designs. Elizabethan furniture is heavier, with ornate features, whereas William and Mary antique chairs are often made from maple and walnut and were often quite conservative in their design. Queen Anne antique chairs are great if you want a simplistic design, whereas Georgian chairs are more elaborate, with attractive legs and are often very stylised. Victorian chairs were made from darker woods, they were heavy and could be considered as a statement piece. Arts and Crafts antique chairs were hand crafted and would look perfect in a country kitchen.
The chair needs to fit in with the scale of the room. Make sure you measure the space, although it may look perfect in the showroom or pictures, if it is the wrong size or it does not fit the scale of the other items in the room, it may look out of place.
3. Suit the décor
If you have a room that is simple and elegant an Edwardian chair would fit perfectly. It is important to match the antique chair to the rest of the décor, for instance a heavy Chesterfield armchair would look out of place in a softly furnished French style room, whereas a chaise longue would fit perfectly.
4. Add Character
A Regency chair for example is very grandeur; this style of furniture took inspiration from Ancient Greece and Rome, resulting in many beautiful designs. Often made from Mahogany, this dark wood is imposing, alongside the attractive upholstery, paw feet and brass features- you can see why such a piece would add to the character of a room. It is possible to inject personality into your interior through the style of furniture you choose.
5. Incorporate Modern and Old
When furnishing a room you need not stick to pieces of the same era. For instance, you may have a home that is modernised and sleek that is not to say an antique chair could not complement this look. An original French Victorian bedroom chair can look delightful in a modern bedroom or set of antique chairs in a modern dining room with a new table.
Extra Considerations When Purchasing Antique Chairs
Although antique chairs may have a few defects due to usage and age, the quality of the piece should still be good. Hardwearing materials such as mahogany and oak and skilled workmanship will all contribute to whether the chair is in the best possible condition. A few minor scratches on antique chairs should not put you off; these can easily be restored and are all part of the unique beauty of antiques.
When you are buying an antique chair you are purchasing quality, an item of furniture that has and will continue to withstand the test of time. It is not only a stylish option but it is also environmentally friendly, it requires no future manufacturing or energy expenditure. Some of the greatest pieces of furniture are antique, and made by reputable furniture makers such as Mackintosh, Sheraton, Morris and Hepplewhite, not only are you buying superior quality but they may also have been made by some of the best furniture producers in history.
Valuing Antique Chairs
It can be problematic to determine the value of an antique chair. Before you determine how much the antique chair is worth, it is important to decipher who the manufacturer is, what style the chair is and the age of the item. Usually an antique chair will feature a mark that will identify who the manufacturer is. When establishing the age of an antique chair the saw marks will indicate when the piece was made, straight saw marks indicate that the chair would have been made before the 19th C, whereas circular saw marks mean that generally the chair was made post 1800.
The condition of the chair will also directly impact the value of the chair, as will its desirability; pieces that are rare and unique will often be of more value. Antique chairs if cared for properly will generally hold their value over time, if not increase. If the chair is in its original state and has not had extensive repair work it will also be more valuable.
Always use a reputable, secure courier when delivering or transporting your antique goods. It is important that you ensure your antique chair is wrapped adequately so it is not damaged in transit, when purchasing an antique chair you can indicate to the dealer how you would like the chair to be wrapped before it is sent. If you are purchasing an antique chair, particularly of value, it is useful to insure the piece before it is transported therefore if in the unfortunate event it is damaged it is possible to claim for its repair.
Position or store your antique chair out of direct sunlight. Pets can damage valuable antiques such as chairs, by scratching at the upholstery so be careful to keep it out of harms way. Antique chairs do require some moisture in the air, so be mindful not to leave or store them somewhere where the air is extremely dry, as this will affect the wood.
Look after the appearance of your antique chair by cleaning and polishing it but be careful not to damage it with excessive wear, use products that are not harsh and will not damage the existing finish. You can wax your antique chair should you require, using a good quality furniture wax, but be careful not to negatively damage the originally finish as this may impact on the value of the antique.
Antique chairs are charming; the large variety of styles and designs over the century’s means there is a piece to fit every interior and purpose. If an antique chair is cared for appropriately it can maintain its beauty for generations yet to come.
Antique Chair 1 (first image): http://www.idesignarch.com/traditional-brownstone-in-brooklyn-heights-with-contemporary-interiors/
Antique Chair 2 (image to the left): http://www.loveantiques.com/antique-chairs/desk-chairs/antique-regency-mahogany-desk-chair-open-armchair-32509
Antique Chair 3 (image to the right): http://www.loveantiques.com/antique-chairs/club-chairs/victorian-soft-tan-leather-club-armchair-(free-shipping-to-mainland-england)-32351
Antique Chair 4 (last image): https://thelongtable.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/how-to-use-your-inherited-antique-chairs/