Side chairs, by definition, are chairs without arms. While this type of antique chair is typically associated with use in a dining room, they are quite portable and some were (and still are) used in other areas of the home as well.
Dining chairs made for use at the heads of tables do have arms, and many antique dining suites were sold with both armed and unarmed versions in the same basic style. Keeping this in mind, examples of dining chairs with arms are being lumped into the side chair category here since they are indeed related.
01 of 07
This is a light, portable chair painted and/or decorated with colorful stencils with an emphasis on gold. Fancy chairs often have cane or rush seats, like the examples shown here.
The fancy chair is derived from Sheraton designs and developed around the turn of the 19th century when the United States was young. It belongs to the Federalist style of furniture and the popularity of this style of decoration continued into the mid-1800s.
While primarily associated with chairs, the term "fancy" came to be applied to other sorts of painted furniture including some settees, nightstands, and various types of cabinets.
It is important to note that a fancy chair (or any other type of fancy furniture) is much more valuable if the painted designs and gilding are all original without subsequent touch-ups. To bring top dollar, they must be in all-around excellent condition.
02 of 07
The Hitchcock chair is a particular brand of mass-produced "fancy chair." So while the name fancy chair is a generic one used to describe a painted chair with intricate stencils, a Hitchcock chair would be one in which the origin has been traced to Lambert Hitchcock's Connecticut workshop.
03 of 07
This style is sometimes referenced as a slat-back as an alternative to ladder-back. It is a slender chair in which the back consists of two poles connected by several horizontal slats which resemble a ladder. The slats may be straight or slightly curved. In a well-proportioned ladder-back chair, the thickness of the horizontal slats will balance out the height of the overall piece.
A variation of the ladder-back is one style of the ribbon-back chair. In these examples, the chair will have wavy pierced slats looped in the center like a stylized bow.
This old type of chair dates back as far as the Middle Ages, and it is a characteristic style of country furniture (such as that made by the Shakers as noted below), though more formal versions exist as well.
04 of 07
There are two different versions of ribbon-back chairs:
The first is a Rococo chair style featuring an ornate, pierced splat (the element running horizontally down the chair back) formed of two long C-scrolls knotted and interlaced to appear like tied ribbons and topped with a literally carved ribbon in a tasseled bow. Originating in the early 18th century, it is especially associated with the chairs of Chippendale, whose original designs featured a bow in the center as well. Later the term ribbon-back was applied more loosely to any elaborately pierced and curved splat, like the example shown here.
Ribbon-back can also refer to a variation of a ladder-back chair, in which the wavy pierced slats are looped in the center, like a stylized bow.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
The most recognizable style of Shaker chair is the traditional slat- or ladder-back version, but there were actually many types including those with Windsor styling (see below) and a rotating chair known as a revolver. And, of course, there’s the front porch favorite, the Shaker rocking chair.
06 of 07
Windsor chairs are all wood with backs and sides consisting of multiple thin, turned spindles that are attached to a solid, sculpted seat. The straight legs in this chair style splay outward and the backs recline slightly. Some examples have thicker decorative splats running down the back with spindles on either side, while others consist of all spindles.
The classic Windsor chair takes its name from the English town of Windsor, where it originated around 1710. This style has been produced over and over through the centuries since then, and modern versions are still being marketed today.
07 of 07
Yoke-back, or yoke-crest, refers to the shape of the top rail of a chair’s back in which two S-shaped pieces emulate the curve of an actual ox yoke. The yoke-shaped element may have protrusions beyond the stiles or be curved (as shown here). Styles of back splats used with yoke-back top rails can vary, but the incorporation of the vasiform splat (a vase- or urn-shaped splat) is not uncommon.
This type of top rail originated with Chinese chairs, but it was also widely used in Queen Anne, Chippendale, and other recognizable styles of American furniture.