Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Windsor Chairs Are among Most Prized American Antiques

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Windsor Chairs Are among Most Prized American Antiques

Article excerpt

OUR ANCESTORS would be surprised to find the humble Windsor chair among the superstars of today's antiques world. After all, there is nothing elegant in a Windsor's materials, nothing grand in its design, nothing extravagant in its decorations. In fact, 200 years ago you were more likely to find a Windsor chair in the kitchen or on the porch than in the dining room.

However, according to Traditional Home magazine, Windsor chairs now are among the most prized American antiques.

The grace and simplicity that make antique Windsors appealing have made their reproductions equally popular. Reproduction Windsors have one compelling advantage over antique originals: cost. Where an antique Windsor might cost thousands of dollars, good handmade reproduction Windsors can be had for $300 to $800, and Windsor-style chairs are available at just about any price.

The cost of antique chairs rises sharply when they are part of a matched pair or larger set. With reproductions you can surround a table with compatible Windsors and not have to take out a second mortgage. Furthermore, many small chairmakers build and finish Windsors to order, so a set can be created by pairing a reproduction with an antique.

However, not all Windsor reproductions are created equal. "Windsor chairs are made partly by feel," says Douglas Dimes, whose father's New Hampshire company reproduces many styles of Windsor chairs, including some for Colonial Williamsburg. "To make a good Windsor takes years of learning how to make it fit right and feel right. It's an art."

Many large furniture companies have Windsor chairs in their lines, and some of them are very good. With machine manufacture, however, come inevitable compromises in finish and construction; look for a reproduction that feels like an antique in finish, proportion and construction.

Chairs with a Windsor shape were made in England as early as the 15th century. The name probably comes from the town of Windsor, once surrounded by beech forests that provided the raw material for numerous local chairmakers. …

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