17 April 2021




Antique Dining Chairs: the effect of neo classical design on antique dining chairs

Many revivals of styles of antique dining chairs made today come from the neo-classical styles and designs of Robert Adam, Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. One of the most enduring initial designs is the lyre-back, a popular neo-classical motif which formed an attractive splat to the more rounded backs of antique dining chairs of the middle 18th century and Regency period. Other parts of the antique dining chair could be decorated with husks, wheatears, and other types of foliage, either in relief or using other contrasting woods. Legs were squared or rounded, often tapering to small peg feet.

The Chippendale influence brought with it characteristic bow shaped backs with pierced and highly carved splats which often continued down the back supports and downward scrolling arms. The legs are usually of cabriole design with acanthus leaves at the top or knees with the ball and claw at the base. The back legs were straight and plain.

As the neo-classical period wore on, backs became more oval, heart or shield-shaped, and were often associated, rightly or wrongly, with Hepplewhite. Adaptations in design meant that seats could be overstuffed at the back as well as the sides for comfort. Back designs incorporated quite delicate carvings, often Prince of Wales feathers linking into the Regency period. Wheat sheaves, plus swags and leaf patterns were also used.

Early designs by Sheraton often mirrored those of Hepplewhite such as the shield back for example. However antique dining chairs generally associated with Sheraton differ where they have a rectilinear rather than rounded back very much in line with the simplicity of the Regency period. In Sheraton carvers, the arms are set high on the back uprights and the legs are fluted and reeded.

These styles of antique dining chairs have been copied many times since their original design and manufacture in the 18th and early 19th centuries and are still heavily copied today. Although original pieces by these designers are rare and very expensive, many fine examples of period and revival pieces can be found here at Christian Davies Antiques in Preston, Lancashire. If you live in Lancashire, or Cumbria, you can come along to view our latest stock of antique dining chairs.

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