What style is this chair?

HolljennFebruary 27, 2012

Just wondering if someone could help me identify the style and age of this chair? I have searched the net with no success. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



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It's a mid-Victorian side or dining chair. You will occasionally also hear them called "ballroom chairs." At a guess, the wood is probably walnut under all that paint. The seat was most likely originally caned -- look underneath and see if there are holes around the inside edge of the chair seat. Cane seats don't last long and owners often found it easier to replace them with a cloth or leather seat.

It's a pretty little piece and worth restoring, if you DIY. Having it restored by a professional would cost more than the chair's value.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 8:51PM
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Thank you for your input. I have acquired 5 of these chairs and plan on a DIY repair. The bottoms do have a series of holes all the way around the inner edge of the chair like you described. The holes are spaced apart equally. Would these chairs have been painted or stained back in the day? Any ideas of the maker? Has the center part of the chair (raised wood piece) been added or is this standard for a cane chair? Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 10:18PM
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I'm sorry, I can't see the raised wood piece in the photograph. Is it at the very rear of the seat? Does it look like a separate piece of wood? I haven't seen a chair of this type with a raised wood piece there, so it very well could have been added. But it could also be original -- just a little quirk of the original maker. Does the wood match that of the rest of the chair?

The chairs would probably originally have been shellacked, given the age, and unstained, if they are walnut. You could use an oil-finish when you refurbish them. I find it easier to use on pieces like this and it soaks into to wood to revitalize it.

There were so many chair makers -- some famous, most not -- that unless they are marked, there would be almost no way to know who made them

Having five of them makes them more valuable.

You've got a nice little project there! Strip first, re-glue if necessary, refinish, then re-cane. If you've never done caning, don't be afraid of it. It isn't difficult. Just make sure to get the right size cane -- measure the distance from the left-hand edge of one hole to the left-hand edge of the next, to give you the distance between centers. Your supplier should have a chart that will tell you the correct size to order, as well as basic instructions.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:07PM
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Wow! That's rough!

I have refinished and caned a bunch of that sort of chair. Most were NOT walnut but rather a lighter wood, probably maple or ash.

I doubt that your chair is walnut, more likely several woods. Those that were not a fine furniture wood were painted and fancied up in the manner of Hitchcock chairs, striping on the legs and perhaps a painted flower on the back.
Might think of painting them....black would ba appropriate as would a rusty maroon or am avocado green.
It's a labor of love....but when you are done you will have a lovely set.....that you did yourself!!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:20PM
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Wow...thanks for all of the info...you can not tell by the picture but the wood is in fantastic shape. the cracked/chipped paint makes it look worse than it actually is. I am an airbrush artist so painting of all kinds is old hat... the caning however will be a new experience.. but i am ready for the challenge. i just wish i knew if the wood pc. in the center should actually be there or not. What is the likelihood that the chair seat could be a mixture of caning and... ???
thanks again for all of the info,

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:19PM
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The wood piece in the center of the back? absolutely should be there!
No chance that that seat is anything but cane...IF it has the holes in it.
Caning is not rocket science, but definitly puts a crimp in your back and small cuts in your fingers!!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:46PM
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Sorry... the wood piece I am referring to is the whiter piece in the middle of the seat. It has brass (?) tacks all around the edge. (you can just make it out in the picture)
I just bought a book on caning from ebay... getting excited for a new project. A big thank you to everyone for your valuable input.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 7:35PM
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With the cane gone, it was put there to support the derierre, I imagine. No, caned chairs do not have wood underneath them. You might expect the wood to be there had there been a leather seat, over which it was stretched. Those were rather common in that timeframe, but the holes underneath suggest it was caned. There are some excellent U-tube videos on chair caning you might want to watch.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:06PM
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What Calliope said.....that piece on the seat was a patch.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 10:49PM
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By your post it sounds like your chairs are pretty solid, which is good. If you strip the paint off DON'T DIP THEM, instead strip off paint by hand. Dipping dissolves the glue in the joints and they will be very wobbley.
Regarding the seats, when you remove the tacks there will be tack holes which will be visable. If you choose not to recane, you can order replacement seats from van Dyke's or some place similar. They have a nice selection of fiber or leather replacement seats with a variety of stamped patterns. The new seats will cover up the tack holes.

Here is a link that might be useful: van Dyke's Restorers

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 1:55PM
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