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Antique Chairs & Stools

Ideas for furnishing with antique chairs & stools.

There comes the question of using early oak chairs and stools in houses of today. The idea, eagerly proclaimed at one time, that oak panelling or plaster walls with Tudor ornament were the only possible settings for oak furniture has lost the conviction it originally carried. Period rooms may occasionally simplify arrangement but more often they cramp it by the arbitrary limitations they impose.

Oak furniture demands a simple scheme of decoration, and in a fairly small modern room with buff distempered walls, and perhaps black woodwork, we may place oak chairs, whether they are Tudor chairs or Jacobean chairs, and we can put a walnut table in the room, a modern sofa, divans or easy chair, with modern pictures or china of any country or period, and yet nothing will look out of place if there is balance in the proportion of the different pieces and harmony in the general colour scheme. Such mixing must be carefully done or it may verge on the injudicious. Heavy oak chairs, for instance, on either side of a delicately-made satinwood table would carry an air of the dealer's showroom, ill-arranged and clumsily crowded.

A good illustration of the way in which oak may be employed to meet modern needs is the use of an oak joint stool (or coffin stool) at an upright piano. The rosewood or walnut of the piano-case does not clash with the darker tone of the oak, and the differences of design are too wide to make the association of such articles of furniture either ridiculous or impossible. The argument that a joint stool is uncomfortable may be raised, but a small pad cushion fitted to its top settles the argument in a perfectly practical way. These little oak stools are very useful in the odd corners of a room. They are sufficiently high to be brought to the fireside for service as coffee tables ; they provide additional plate space at tea time, and at a little writing table a joint stool is excellent, because it does not project and claim a lot of space - a valuable asset in a small room.

There was once a time when worm-holes were considered the hall-marks of the genuine antique. So great was the passion for this evidence of potential decay that most reproductions were provided with artificial worm-holes, and the romantic possibilities of furniture-faking appealed not only to a large number of artistically-inclined commercial adventurers, but also to the general public, as Mr Vachel's "Quinneys" proved by its popularity both as a novel and a play.

A reproduction that is frankly and honestly a reproduction is just as beautiful as a genuine old piece of furniture, for a skilful polisher can obtain the same shade and finish that the dusting and burnishing of generations of energetic housewives attains. Worm holes should be avoided, because if they are artificial they are merely silly, and if they are real they show that the insect enemies of wood are at work and bent on ultimate destruction. It is possible to defeat the energies of the wood-eaters by the use of petrol or paraffin, or by leaving chairs or any articles affected in this way in an atmosphere of chlorine fumes. But chlorine is deadly stuff to handle, and such work should be entrusted to experts only.

The easiest and clearest manner of presenting the advantages of the various types of chair, and indicating how best they may be used in modern rooms, will be to consider the chief rooms of a house separately, and take into account the other furniture they may contain. This does not mean that these pages will become tabulated like a catalogue, with certain things bracketed and marked "suitable for the boudoir", and so forth. Furnishing is not an exact science, nor is it a mystery as so many experts would have us believe. A sense of fitness plays a greater part in making a room attractive than any amount of expert knowledge.

Next: Dining Room Chairs.

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