YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

What's It Worth?

September 13, 1997|KATHY BRYANT

What is it?

A high Windsor, a traditional type of English chair with a shaped, solid wood seat into which the legs, the bow and spindles of the back are doweled.

What's its history?

Windsor chairs have been made since the 17th century, mainly in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Perhaps their name comes from the fact that this area is near Windsor. They have been manufactured there on an industrial scale since the early 19th century. Similar ones have been made in the United States since around 1725.

What's its legend?

These chairs were economical to produce because they were made from many different woods, says Leslie Bowman, curator of decorative arts of the Los Angeles Museum of Art. They were painted in green, black or red because no attempt was made to match woods.

"These chairs would not have been found in the front parlor. They would have been in the hall, the servants' quarters or the kitchen," Bowman says.

How was it made?

English Windsor chairs were handmade with seats of elm, a frame of yew and spindles of beech. The pierced central splat between the spindles was common in the English Windsor. Many are marked by the woodcrafter.

What to watch out for

These chairs have been popular in England and the United States since the 18th century and continue to be manufactured in both good and bad reproductions.

There are definite stylistic differences between 18th and 19th century Windsor chairs. American Windsor chairs do not have the splat on the back.

What is it worth today?

Original chairs from the 18th century in good condition are valuable because of their age and craftsmanship.

This Windsor chair is one of a set of eight from the late 18th century, originally from an English country estate, according to Cynthia Miley, owner of the Decorative Arts Villa in San Juan Capistrano. They are selling the set for $23,500.

Where can you find it?

Fine antique stores sometimes have these chairs, and they can be found at auction. There are many books on Windsor chairs, often with conflicting information.

"American Windsor Chairs" ($125, Hudson Hills Press, 1997) by Nancy Evans is the most definitive. It can be found at some bookstores or through Winterthur Museum's bookstore at (800) 448-3883.

Also recommended is "Discovering Antiques" ($29.95, De Agostini Editions, 1996) by Eric Knowles.

To have an item considered for this column, send information and a photo to What's It Worth, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

Los Angeles Times Articles