This morning, Wellard alerted me to the arrival of an intruder: I lifted my eyes from the bench and saw a van trundling up the drive towards the house. I dusted myself down and set off across the yard to intercept the vehicle. Daniel Maclaurin had kindly driven out to return the walnut side chairs that I last spoke of late last December.
Stuffover seats of this era were upholstered tightly and squarely viz. simple webbing, linen and kapok/horsehair stuffing, which were then covered with a decorative fabric (figures 1-3).
Fig. 1. Square-upholstered seat, circa 1750. (Mackinnon Fine Art)
Fig. 2. Square-upholstered seats, circa 1765. (Jeremy Ltd.)
Fig. 3. Square-upholstered seat, circa 1770. (Ronald Phillips)
Later seats were inclined to be more abundantly stuffed (figure 5).
Fig. 5. Regency chair with typically puffy seat, circa 1820. (Thakeham Furniture)
Later again, stuffover seats harboured internal coil springs which result in unattractive bloated upholstery that is no more comfortable than the square or puffy seats of earlier chairs.
Unfortunately this type of upholstery is what befalls many period chairs when reupholstered by some benighted dealers and upholsterers (figures 6 & 7).
Fig. 6. A circa 1730 chair with inappropriate, voluminous, internally-sprung seat.
Fig. 7. A circa 1765 chair with imprudent upholstery.
The seats of the new chairs, though seemingly austere, are in fact very comfortable and what’s more, encourage good posture (figures 8 & 9).
Fig. 8. Square-upholstered seat with linen cover.
Fig. 9. As they should be.
I had an opportunity to tour and speak with Leroy Graves in the furniture conservation lab at CWF. Afterwards I could not look at furniture the same way but as in so many aspects of material cultural, fashion trends trump historical accuracy.
You must be happy with the result. The chairs look wonderful.
Yes, thank you, they have turned out quite nicely.
Bravo Jack! They look great!
Thanks for following up with the final photos of these excellent chairs.
I’m used to seeing a row of tacks (or ribbon over tacks) all the way round the seat – I guess your seats have the fabric tucked under except for the legs. Is that a carefully chosen and folded bit of trim at the legs…or is if folded somehow?
Yes, there’s a bit of tricky folding involved around the leg brackets.
Thank you for this post Jack. In my experience flat seats will after some use become concave because the stuffing get compressed and the bands will strech a little. ref fig 1. That is a price to pay, when one wants flat seats. But they look great though.