The History Of Furniture: Windsor

For this installation of The History of Furniture, let's look at a style of furniture that is such a part of our lives and the history of not only England but the United States as well, that we sometimes overlook this workhorse piece of furniture.

The Windsor chair is a classic piece of furniture that first appeared in the 16th century. The woodworking technique of steam bending in the 18th century allowed the advancement of rounded pieces of wood and these Windsor chairs were made in Windsor, Berkshire and shipped to London for sale. English settlers introduced the Windsor chair to North America, with the earliest known chairs being imported by Patrick Gordon who became lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania in 1726

Below we have what I think of as the classic version of this classic style. The host chair at this table is what is known as a "sack back" Windsor chair...the rounded top dies into a chair arm...while the guest chairs are known as a "hoop back" or "bow back" style.

Here is another room by Kate Maloney which utilizes the "sack back" and "bow back" chairs. The space references traditional design, supported by the chairs of course, but there is something light and breezy and even contemporary about the feel of this room.

As we can see by the chart below, there are several variations of Windsor chairs that were made in Europe and the United States.

The chair in the photo below is called a "comb back" Windsor chair, and I think we can see why. The piece that dies into the arm does indeed look like a hair comb!

Now we come to a simpler design of a Windsor chair with a continuous arm. Instead of the hoop or bow coming down to meet the seat, it curls up into arms.

And lest you think that the only things "Windsor" are chairs, there were also Windsor settees. The concept was to put two or more chairs together to make a longer seat deck.

Happy designing!