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  • Lisa Lawston

Chair, an Object of Wonder

Updated: Apr 12, 2019

Did you ever ponder the object called “chair?” One brisk day while walking a friends dog I asked him to sit for a treat and he stared up at me as if to say, “Umm, tell you what, you sit your bare bottom on this cold ground and you can keep that tasty little cookie for yourself!“


I felt a tinge of human entitlement as I stuffed the bone back in my pocket. How grim a prospect was one small dry biscuit in exchange for a frozen tush. I began to explain to Pudding as we trekked through the frozen terrain, that perhaps I’d been insensitive to his position, due to the thousands of years that have passed since humans have been uplifted. As an empath, I elaborated on the fact that the chair was originally a thing of status when it appeared around 3200 BC. and was occupied by the derrieres’ of nobility, holymen, and heads of household (chairman).




It wasn’t until the Renaissance period in Europe that the king fell off his throne and possibly on top of his dog that the chair became available to anyone who could afford it or jump high enough. Once that happened it was established as an object of fashion. One type of chair whose presence in a room continues to be embraced over hundreds of years, is the Wing chair. I can’t help but notice that in most older photos Wing chairs are coupled, whereas in more contemporary photos it’s the lone accent chair with a grand enough personality to carry the entire room. All other pieces of furniture seem to bask in its glory! In the early 1700’s the Wing chair increased in popularity in Europe and America for more practical reasons than its good looks. Back then, the chair was thought to be a big deep horse hair stuffed cushioned hug of elegance with glorious outspread wings shielding its occupant from cold drafty old houses and wildly flying sparks from the hearth. The Wing was met with enthusiasm by famous cabinet designers like Chippendale in London who designed gorgeous frames to compliment the brightly colored upholstery.

I inherited two Wing back chairs with large mahogany clawed feet, from my grandmother. As a child, I observed how they stood stiffly at attention in her formal living room in their tone on tone skin, zipped in plastic. I’d stand between them next to her fake lemon tree anticipating my grandmothers call from the kitchen, “You’re not sitting on the furniture, right?" So you see, Pudding...it wasn't much different for me, in the 1960's.

The first thing I did when the chairs arrived at my apartment was unzip them and allow them to breathe a sigh of relief. I gave them time to reveal themselves before deciding on what to recover them in. A little voice said, get creative, I love that for you! The chairs possessed all the curves and shapes and muscle tone of a tiger and so when I had them professionally refurbished, I selected a high quality, glorious cotton velvet tiger print. I can still hear the echo of my mother’s cries, “You did what?” Ha! That made it a tad more exciting when the chairs won an award in Architectural Digest. The Wing chair or my favorite easy chair, parlor chair, fireside chair, reading chair, accent chair, sleeping chair, cuddle chair will remain a queen of chairs whether dressed in pink velvet or brown leather. Get yourself one!