Louis XV style toilet chairs in soft pastels
  • Oak church pulpit and side chairs
  • A standout set of silver chairs
  • " />
    Auction Finds

    Ladder back chairs in need of a little love

    One of my auction buddies is always talking about taking some dilapidated chair or other piece of furniture and turning it into a masterpiece. She gets these ideas after watching some design show on TV – Nate Berkus was one of her favorites – or reading antiques magazines.

    She’s even tried a few projects – once, she sanded her front door so she could change the paint color. I’m not sure if she finished it or paid someone to do it. But girlfriend isn’t too good with her hands and isn’t exactly the artistic type. Those folks who turn trash into treasure have the talent and imagination for design that neither she nor I have.

    ladder back chair

    A ladder back rocker and three side chairs - all caked in dust - waiting to be sold at auction. The green tint is from the camera.

    Anyway, I thought of her when I saw four old dusty wooden ladder back chairs among some furniture at auction recently. Three side chairs and a rocker were lined up single file up against a wall. Even beneath the years of dirt, I could envision them in a stain mimicking the original color of the wood, along with new woven rush seats.

    When I jiggled the chairs, the frames seemed to be sturdy, but the chairs would have to be re-born from scratch. It was a major undertaking that may not be worth the price (especially if you wanted to re-sell them). If you wanted to keep them as antiques in your home, maybe the blood, sweat and tears would be worth it. Here’s one DIY’er’s step-by-step job of re-making a chair.

    I couldn’t find a maker’s name on the chairs, but they looked to be handmade and rather crude, as if they came out of a home where money was tight. They “go back to the early 1800s,” the auctioneer said. “They’re good antique pieces.” Maybe, maybe not, I said to myself.

    ladder back chair

    The three slats on the back of the ladder back chairs were pretty narrow.

    When I think of ladder back chairs, the Shakers come to mine. They did not invent the chairs but they improved on them, according to the website stimbelake.com, which sells Shaker reproduction furniture. The chairs themselves had been around since the Middle Ages, and by the 17th century were popular in England and later in colonial America.

    In the 19th century, the Shakers were mass-producing their ladder-back chairs, and their Mount Lebanon chair (made at their headquarters in Mount Lebanon, NY) won a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition for its “modest beauty,” according to the Shaker Historic Trail Site of the National Park Service. The chairs were exhibited along with footstools in a booth at the centennial, and became very popular.

    Imitators copied them and many modern designers were influenced by them. The Shakers patented their design and affixed a gold trademark decal on the inside of a rear leg to distinguish their chairs.

    ladder back chair

    The ladder back chairs were lined up in a row at the auction house.

    The Shakers were known for the simplicity and utility of their furniture, according to the park service. Their classic style meant “clean lines, free of unnecessary detailing.”

    A 1981 article by the Chicago Tribune offered some guidelines on how to determine if a ladder back chair was a Shaker. The maker’s top of the line chair, which the article said was rare, was its chairs with tilters, ball and sockets that allowed you to tilt the chair back on its rear legs. Here’s a photo of a child’s tilter chair and a tiger maple side chair with pewter tilters.

    The Shaker Museum and Library has a large collection of artifacts, including every size and shape of chair made by the various Shaker communities.

    No one mistook the chairs at auction for Shaker despite their simplistic style. Bidding was light, and all four sold for $15.

    ladder back chair

    An up-close view of the woven rush seat on the ladder back rocker.


    Tagged as: , , , ,

    Leave a Response

    Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

    bbc galapagos las islas que cambiaron el mundogalapagos cruise reviewsbest cruise ships galapagos islandsbest family galapagos cruisebest time to go to galapagos and machu picchubest time to go to peru and galapagosbiotech bedrijf galapagosbiotechnologiebedrijf galapagosbudget galapagos boat toursbudget galapagos cruise pricescaracteristicas de las islas galapagos antiguascaracteristicas de las islas galapagos flora y faunacaracteristicas de las islas galapagos mas antiguascaracteristicas islas antiguas galapagoscaracteristicas islas mas antiguas galapagoscelebrity cruise galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruise lines galapagos islandscelebrity cruises galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruises galapagos reviewscelebrity cruises galapagos xpeditioncelebrity xpedition galapagos 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos cancelledcelebrity xpedition galapagos cruisecelebrity xpedition galapagos cruise 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos excursionscelebrity xpedition galapagos machu picchucelebrity xpedition galapagos price