Dear Helaine and Joe:I would like to know some things about a chair I have. Maybe you could tell me the type of chair it is, how old and its monetary value. I do not know much about old furniture, but I would say this chair is in excellent condition.
Dear D. C.:
This is really a charming wing chair with its pierced wood panels between the chair’s back and the wings. The cut-through panels feature heads of what might be putti (some might call them “Cupids”) and a pair of love birds bill-to-bill on the crest. Very romantic, but perhaps a bit frou-frou for today’s tastes.
The so-called wing chair was introduced in England during the late 17th century. It was an easy chair with a high back and “wings” or “lugs” on the sides that often incorporated the arm rest.
The English designer George Hepplewhite employed the name “saddle cheek,” and indeed in Hepplewhite’s design the wings and back do resemble a saddle, and the wings themselves are the cheeks.
The wings on the chair were designed to shield the sitter from drafts and envelop the occupant in such a way that the heat from the fireplace was captured and held in the enveloping enclosure of the chair’s wings. In other words, these chairs were often placed in front of fireplaces to keep the user warm, cozy and protected from errant interior breezes.
In Victorian times, these chairs were sometimes called “grandfather chairs,” and today, wing chairs are found as traditional furniture in many modern American homes and are not always placed in front of a fireplace. The wing chair in today’s question is a very nice piece, but it is our opinion it was once part of a larger parlor set — or at least had a mate at one time.
We have covered what the chair is, and this leads us to the next question: How old is it? The style of the chair is unmistakably 20th century.
It was probably made sometime during the 1920s, but the early 1930s is not entirely out of the question. This means the chair is knocking on the door of being an antique, but it is not there quite yet.
Lastly, we turn to the monetary value, which is fairly modest when the prices of modern wing chairs of this quality are used as a comparison.
Unfortunately, this chair is currently considered just to be a really nice piece of used furniture, and there is no value correlation between it and a modern wing chair that could be purchased at a high-end furniture store.
We should also say that the upholstery currently on D. C.’s chair goes against it.
To be sure, the fabric looks attractive and clean, but if someone were to purchase it, they almost certainly would want to reupholster it to match their decor, and in most places that could cost upwards of $1,000 and more in some urban areas.Upholstery can be detriment to the monetary value of old pieces of furniture, and that is why antiques dealers often rip the fabric off chairs and just show the frame. This wing chair with its cabriole legs and nice machine carving should be value for insurance purpose in the $300 to $350 range.
This article was originally published on the NJ Herald.