Antique Victorian Chairs Buying Guide

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Antique Victorian Chairs Buying Guide

The embellished, comfort-oriented style of an antique Victorian chair is a great investment for any room in a house, or as a collector's item. Since antiques are normally considered to be 100 years or older, an antique Victorian chair is truly a part of an illustrious history and design tradition. There are many kinds of antique Victorian chairs, ranging from nursing chairs to dining sets and wing back chairs. One common thread between all of these types and styles of antique Victorian chairs remains a sense of luxury, ornate detailing, and leisurely comfort. Often fine silks grace the upholstery of the chairs in bright, rich colours and floral patterns, adding another dimension of beauty to your room's decor.

History of Antique Victorian Chairs

The Victorian era spanned the year 1837 to 1901 under the reign of Queen Victoria in England. This period saw an increase of wealth in the new industrial or middle class, which created a booming market with new tastes for household furniture. To this newly rich class, success was defined by excessive, heavily ornate pieces and overcrowded rooms filled with furniture pieces. Decorative elements such as curved lines, scrollwork and carved patterns added a sense of luxury to the furniture. This style period was also unique because of its focus on revivals from the Tudor, Neoclassical, Rococo, Elizabethan and especially Gothic fashions; often 'eclectically' mixed with each other in the same room. New styles like Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement also contributed to the furniture design in the late Victorian period. Overall, antique Victorian chairs tend to be comfort-oriented, like armchairs, and filled with ornate, embellished details that convey a sense of luxuriant excess. While much of Victorian furniture is hand-made, this period also marked the beginning of the era of mechanisation. First machines were used to carve decorations, and then later to completely mass-produce pieces of furniture. Chemical dying for upholstery was also slowly mastered throughout the Victorian period.

Discover Antique Victorian Chairs

The charm and embellished ornament of an antique Victorian chair is a great addition to any room. As an antique, a well-maintained chair should appreciate in value over time as a collector's item. Antique Victorian chairs are also worthy of appreciation for their beauty and craftsmanship. Whether an antique Victorian chair follows in the revivalist tradition, or in the modernist Art Deco or Arts and Crafts Movement, it will doubtlessly embrace a keen sense of beauty and historical knowledge. On a more basic level, antique Victorian chairs feature well tufted, comfortable furniture with beautiful detailing, which is sure to make an enjoyable addition to any modern household.

Parts of Antique Victorian Chairs

Antique Victorian chairs typically consist of similar features to create a showy, decorative look with a sturdy, weighted construction.

Part

Description

Composition (wood)

Oak, mahogany and walnut were highly regarded materials. Oak was associated with traditional English taste.

Design

Heavy, thick dimensions and elaborate, carved decorative aspects. Revival of old Gothic styles and more geometric, newer styles.

Upholstery

Upholstered chairs were typically overstuffed and covered in a luxurious fabric, such as fine silk, and decorated with floral patterns or chemically dyed colours like blue, pink and gold.

Finish

Varnish and lacquer sealants were developed in the Victorian period to produce a high-gloss finish. Before 1860, milk paint, shellac or wax was used as a sealant.

Arms

Comfort oriented, Victorian chairs tended to have arms unless they were used for nursing or dining. Arms tend to be curved outward.

Legs

Popular legs in the style of elaborate turning, a restrained cabriole, or round leg.

Seat

Seats tend to be shaped round, horseshoe or square.

Types of Antique Victorian Chairs

Type

Description

Advantages

Considerations

Wing chair

An easy chair with 'wings' mounted to the back, usually extending down to the armrest. The original purpose was to keep out drafts and keep heat from the fireplace locked in.

A comfortable lounge chair with a dramatic, historical style. The 'wings' do not necessarily serve the same purpose as they did previously, and may be limit peripheral vision.

Dining chair

Typically armless, padded and upholstered chair with balloon-shaped back. 

A standard chair for the dining table, available in many styles and designs to suit the eating area. Decorative upholstery and glossy finish may require more care than newer dining chair models. 

Office tilt-chair

A wooden armchair with comfortable back and tilting capabilities near the base. 

Provides the versatile sitting positions of a rocking chair with more stability, and a more professional appearance.  Perhaps not as well-cushioned as other armchairs. Tilting mechanism may be more susceptible to damage, or repair.

Rocking armchair

An armchair with two curved wooden bands attached to the legs.

The comfort of an armchair with the addition of a lulling, rocking motion. Great for relaxation in the living room or bedroom.  Less versatility than a typical armchair. Not the best for sitting in an upright or forward position.

Armchair

Padded chair with arms and typically heavy, thick proportions.

The standard for relaxation in the living room or bedroom. Well-cushioned and comfortable. Heavy Victorian styles might be too bulky for smaller rooms. Hard to carry and move..

Nursing chair

A low-seated, partially upholstered chair, often with a sprung seat.

A great casual, multi-purpose chair for most rooms.  The low seat might be reach the height of some tables. Less cushioning in the back.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Victorian Chairs

  • Function - there are many types of antique Victorian chairs, including ones for living rooms, dining tables, bedrooms, offices or nurseries.
  • Hand-carved vs. machine-made - while there are some Victorian chairs that are mass-produced, an antique Victorian chair for the purposes of collecting should probably be hand-carved for authenticity.
  • Style - antique Victorian chairs come in many different styles, whether in the revivalist tradition, or in modern styles just emerging at the time. They feature different levels of elaborate detail and simplicity in their designs.
  • Age - there are many chairs in the Victorian style that may be younger than 100 years old, and therefore not qualify as an antique. Try to date an antique Victorian chair, research the history of the maker and the style, along with observing signs of wear on the chair itself.

Typical Features of Antique Victorian Chairs

Antique Victorian chairs can range in appearance, but here we have a list of some commonly found features.

  1. Oak, walnut or rosewood - Traditional high quality hardwoods with a dark colouring.
  2. Heavy, overstuffed and ornate - Thick dimensions, ample padding and showy decorative details comprise the typical Victorian chair style.
  3. Colourful upholstery - Upholstered chairs could have motifs, patterns or colours in blue, green, pink, or gold.
  4. Dark and glossy finish - Sealants such as lacquer, varnish and shellac create a high degree of shine on the dark wood of the chair.

How to Care for Antique Victorian Chairs

Older pieces of furniture require more care than newer ones on the market, particularly, to maintain and restore its patina. This is best done by avoiding the use of harsh cleaning products on antique Victorian chairs, even most furniture oils. Rather, use a very soft cloth to apply a thin coat of high-quality beeswax on the wooden parts of an antique Victorian chair, at least once a year. Avoid abrasive cloths or products, as they can damage the patina on the chair. Antique wooden furniture also reacts negatively to changes in the humidity, so investing in a good humidifier or dehumidifier is a wise choice.

Popular Antique Victorian Chair Manufacturers

Many manufactures can be found, but here is a list of some prominent names and makers.

  • Herter Brothers
  • Allen and Brother
  • Merklen Brothers
  • John Henry Belter
  • Alexander Roux
  • R. J. Horner
  • Hugh Baillie Scott
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh
  • William Morris
  • E.W. Godwin
  • Liberty & Co.
  • Ashbee

Finding Antique Victorian Chairs on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Victorian chair you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on 'Chairs', then 'Victorian' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Victorian Chairs on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique Victorian chairs. For example, to find antique Victorian dining chairs, type 'antique Victorian dining chair' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique Victorian chairs with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique Victorian chair you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion paragraph

The luxurious appearance and comfort of a high-styled antique Victorian chair can be an asset to many rooms. The pleasure and reliability of buying a quality-made antique Victorian chair will last for generations to come. Whether opting for a simpler design or more embellished chair, an antique Victorian chair brings a unique sense of style to any household. Understanding the range and styles on offer will help make the bets purchase. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Victorian chair safely and securely on eBay.

 
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