Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pull up a chair!

This time of  year I begin to think warm.  Not warm-ly which would seem to be grammatically correct in the sentence, but warm.  Warm, as in secure, comfortable and not cold.  The kind of warm that our forebears had in mind when they invented the wing chair.  I love 'em.  Perhaps proving, once again, that I am a traditionalist. 

Wing chairs, according to those who speculate on derivatives, were originally designed as fireside chairs.  One who sat enjoyed the warmth of the fire with back and sides protected from drafts in the unheated homes of the 17th century.  Those early ones did not have the comfort of upholstery and feathers that we appreciate today.  It is a principle of my design work that no wing chair gets anything but a feathered seat cushion. 

A settle.
The individual wing or wingback chair was created based on the design of the high backed settle which had the same principle but seated at least two people.  Settles and the first wing chairs were just wood since the design preceded upholstery.  I don't have a date on when upholstered furniture came to be but I've heard that it was about the time ladies began wearing fewer petticoats and demanded softer seats.  Historically, we know it existed in the 1700's because Betsy Ross was in the business.  She took over her husband's upholstery shop after his death.  Did you know that she was a Quaker and John Ross was an Episcopalian?  She was banished from Quakerhood.   A little more history tells that she probably did not make the first American flag.  Oh well.  She might have upholstered a wingback chair similar to this one since she was also known for her decorative needlework.

For many years it was en vogue to cover a wing chair in crewel work.   

It is amusing that the chair's side pieces were called by different names in different countries.  In England they were known as cheeks or lugs.  Hepplewhite called them saddle cheeks.  In France, they were known as ears.  Whatever one calls them, they are comfortable and warm if placed near the fire on a winter's day. 

I yearn to spend a late afternoon by the fire in this French beauty. 

Paint your own picture.  A fire, a book, a dog, a drink and perhaps a pleasant companion.  For myself, I might play a little Diana Krall.  I find her wonderfully soothing.  With or without.  Any or all.  What's your pleasure in your chair with wings?


  1. One of my favorite chairs, the wing chair, some might call them old fashioned but I think they are just a wonderful classic piece of furniture. I just had an old one reupholstered to put next to my fireplace. Thanks so much for the history lesson!
    Marianne :)

  2. Ooo. I love this post and am always up for an education on the history of furnishings and architecture.

    I came across this room just this morning.

    As soon as I read your post, I thought of the room, which has both the bench (although no ears, as I'll call them from now on) and the wing chair in leather.

    Betsy and John Ross. How scandalous!

  3. Thanks to Marianne and Camille for your kind words.

    I have a chair with "ears" in my living room. I had it newly upholstered a few years ago and love it. For a long time one of those dog pillows sat quietly at the back. Do you know the pillows from Toy works that were popular a few years ago? A little spaniel of some kind with a blue ribbon. The newest member of my household is making it clear to me that if it's a dog's chair then she is taking it. I find my precious Toy Works doggie in the floor daily. Molly certainly agrees that the wing chair is a nice sit but she prefers to sit alone.

  4. Love your article. If it's ok with you, I'd like to use your photo of the crewel chair on my blog, with a link back to your blog.


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