Hidden Gems: How to Identify Antique Chairs

antique chairs

You walk into an antique store. You’re searching for an antique chair that will complement your old-fashioned dining room. A floor associate sells you on an old chair that seems like it came from around 1900.

You’re not quite certain, as the chair resembles the vintage variety. The associate seems unsure. He also seems eager to sell the old chair so it will take up less space on the sales floor.

How do you know if the chair is an antique?

Look for a manufacturing tag when distinguishing between modern and vintage furniture. Antique chairs should have no tags whatsoever. Moreover, look for modern screws that look out of place. This article will show you other ways to spot antique chair styles. Read on if you wish to find the perfect antique seats.

Antique vs Vintage

You’ll discover stark differences between antique and vintage chairs. Antique chairs came from 100 years ago or longer. Vintage chairs harken back to around the 1960s.

In addition, chairs with padded foam are usually vintage chairs. Most artisans from the 20th century used artificial foam as cushioning. On the other hand, old-fashioned creators used unconventional cushioning, such as bird feathers. 

When it comes to the chair fabric, search for the following attributes:

  • White prints
  • Floral designs

You can trace new or fresh chair fabrics to the vintage era. 

Leg Shapes

Chairs with feet-like appendages are usually antiques. Many antique seat legs also have a curvature. The following antique chairs come with curved or cabriole legs:

  • Queen Anne Chairs
  • Chippendale Chairs
  • Georgia Chairs

Note: Artisans named chairs after monarchs, especially monarchs from the Hanover dynasty of the United Kingdom. 

When examining the chair legs, look for screws near the corner brackets. Chairs made with modern screws are vintage or replicas. Artisans used older screws to make chairs, but not until the 18th century.

As you look for screws, examine the wood material to see if it conforms to the style of an antique seat.

Types of Wood

Artisans used mahogany to make older chairs, especially African mahogany. Makers used other woods, such as:

  • Walnut 
  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Cherry 
  • Ash

Note: Artisans made chairs using different wood types in a single chair. 

Craftsmen used walnut and mahogany after the 1700s. However, artisans mostly used oak before the 1700s. Assessing the oak is also a good way to determine the value of antique furniture.

If you’re searching for wooden chairs from the Victorian Era, look for a shellac finish on the chair. Shellac is a clear finish used during the early period. Varnish came later in the mid-1800s. 

Where Can I Find Antique Chairs?

The best places to look include classified sites or antique stores. However, not every salesperson will know the difference between antique and vintage. The easiest way to spot antique chairs is to check for wear and tear on the fabric. 

You can choose from a wide array of modern fabrics that blend with your antique chairs. To see some of the best fabrics on the market, visit our fabric page to get some decorating tips.