Beginner’s Guide to Windsor Dining Chairs

A contemporary take on a classic, the Windsor spindle dining chair is back.

A place for the family to connect and unwind, the dining room, is a special place in a home, as in some homes it’s only used once or twice a year.

Farmhouse style embraced Windsor chair and the influencer behind the trend is none other than Joana Gains. In her Magnolia Home Furniture line Windsor chairs are part of the dining collection.

Below are some images of her furniture line.

Taper Turned + Squires
Leaf Carved + Windsor Hoop

The History

As the name implies, the Windsor chair has a European history, specifically England. In the 18th-century, the chairs were first associated with the Windsor castle in England.

In contrary to popular belief, the  chair was named  Windsor because of the “form of construction which is ” the legs and the back are both socketed into a solid seat”.

However, Windsor was the “center for distribution” while Thames Valley in Buckinghamshire had several production factories.  

Today, original Windsor chairs are a true treasure and a collection item. In fact, in 2004 two Windsor chairs sold for £62,000 at Sotheby.  

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

North American Emergence

To many the Windsor chair is an American classic and has no relation to England, which is absurd but it’s necessary to identify when it became a prominent furniture piece in America.

Reputable American figures have sat on the chair which makes it such an iconic piece of furniture. The image below shows a number of individuals sitting on the bow-back Windsor armchair during the presentation of the “Declaration of Independence”, this is such a groundbreaking event and we see this chair being used. 

Presentation of the Declaration of independence Source: Design Sponge

So, when exactly did the production of the chair begin the US? Around 1720s the chair was mainly used outdoor in porches and gardens most importantly they were painted green. The demand for the chairs rose, as the image below shows an array of “sack-back Windsor” armchairs in the “Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York”. 

Sack-back Windsor armchairs on the piazza off the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York Source: Porches of America by Thomas Durant Visser pg 88

There is a notable difference between the English and American chair. As seen below, the English chair has a splat back while the American has a bow-back with continuous spindle. 

Many have mentioned that George Washington propelled the mass production of Windsor chairs as in the 1800s he requested that thirty Windsor chairs be made for “his guests on the piazza of Mount Vernon”. 

Characteristics

The original Windsor chair in the 18th century only slightly differs from what we see today.

The biggest difference is in the legs and back. With the legs, the front has cariole legs, while the back is straight with a ball at the anchor points. 

The focal point of the chair is the decorative splat back centerpiece that connects the comb back.

The leg is a great distinction of the location of the manufacturer, as the cabriole leg is a Thames Valley region craftmanship signature. 

High-end craftsmen partook in the Windsor trend and created some breathtaking pieces such as the below chairs which is a Gothic design made in “Thames Valley” in the late 18th Century.  

There are few information on when the bow-back side chair became popular but some expert believe it was introduced later in the 19th century, as a means to furnish traditional homes.

There are four different types of American Windsor Chairs

A number of articles have mentioned that the emergence of Windsor chair in America started in “mid-1740s” in Philadelphia. From historic images, it is evident there was a lot of detail and craftsmanship invested into the chairs.

The Low-back Windsor Armchair

Today there are simpler rendition of this low-back chair but examining this original piece from the “Winterthur Museum” from “1755-1760” Philadelphia reveals a lot. Firstly, there is the “ogee-curved arm piece” then there is the “heavy back rail” along with the “sawed and shaped arm” and “double scoop” D-shaped seat. The legs are a Philadelphia signature style which is “baluster-style legs with “ball” feet and “spool-and ring turnings”. 

The High-back Windsor Armchair

Based on the legs, it is evident that the chair is made in Philadelphia specifically, mid-1740s but made public in after 1750s. This chair was intended to be “lightweight” as seen in the arm and arm-railing.

The Sack-back Windsor Armchair

Mass production began to influence furniture making of the chairs in 1780s, as a result, simplicity in design was more important than ornate details. The spindles were simple while the tapered legs had “sizable swells”.  

antiquesandfineart

The Bow-back Windsor Side Chair and Armchair

The simplest design out of all the Windsor chairs, this side chair was created in the 1790s at a period of when demand was high due to the large sizes of families at the time.

A typical dining chair, the above is Boston made, as the thick legs are a signature of the city. While the “bulbous baluster, thick ring and swelled-taper foot” are are new designs that were popular in the 1790s.

antiquesandfineart

As mentioned the chair leg is a great indicator of what city it was made in, so the left chair is from Philadelphia while the right chair is from Rhode Island.

Modern Interpretations

Popular retailers are ensuring that this classic furniture piece is not forgotten and have adapted it to meet the demands of todays preferences.

Shopping online has become a convenient way to source furniture products and Wayfair a reputable retailer has a great selection of Windsor chairs to choose from.

Below is a list of the top ten Windsor chair on their website.

Chair 1, Chair 2, Chair 3, Chair 4, Chair 5, Chair 6, Chair 7, Chair 8, Chair 9, Chair 10.

Inspiration

Today, there are different iterations of the Windsor chairs but the main design of the chair still remains true to the Windsor structure.

The chair has a causal yet traditional style to it, which makes it suitable to different interior style.

Credits: carcabaroad

Are you a fan of the Windsor chair? How long will the interior design industry embrace it ?

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