Chairs used to be an item of furniture reserved for the elite and officials only, not being found in normal people’s homes when you look back into history. There are even some seats that are still used as a symbol of authority, for example, the speaker’s chair in the House of Commons, the Queen’s throne and executive chairs for those who ‘chair’ meetings. Not until the 16th century did the humble chair become the seat for the more common man. However, most homes in history still settled for benches, stools or chests for seating.
We spent a great deal of time sitting in chairs, especially those of us who work in offices. Consider upgrading your office chairs when you next have an office refit. The right chairs can have a big impact on the happiness and health of your employees. Why not treat yourself to an Eames Lounge Chair from Pash Living?
The seats of the Ancient Egyptians were a grand affair and made of ebony and ivory or gilded carved wood. They believed that the chair should resemble beings and animals in order not to interfere with nature. Popular themes for Egyptian chairs included lion claws or the hooves of bulls.
Roman chairs were often made of marble, which does not sound very comfortable but thankfully, they were beautifully decorated with sphinxes. One of the oldest seats to survive is the chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is somewhat rotten as made from wood, but it seems to date from the 6th century. It has an impressive ivory carving of Hercules.
Another ancient seat is ‘Chair of Dagobert’ in the Louvre, Paris. Cast bronze and gold with leg portions that feature the head and feet of animals. It could well be the oldest surviving seat in the world.
Until the 17th century, most seats were made of wood and not layered. When it became customary to protect them, animal skin was used and next came silk and velvet. Most of the seats are big and heavy as they were usually made of oak and it was not until the reign of Louis XIII of France when chairs began to be made with cane backs, so they were not so heavy.
In the UK, the seat became increasingly ornate as influenced by the Cavaliers, who had been in exile with Charles II in Northern Europe. The Chippendale gradually developed with back-square-feet in complex designs with claws or balls for foot pads.
The 18th century was the golden age of chairs in both French and English culture. One popular design was the oval-backed chair covered in velvet. It was around this time that the rocker was also invented which has its roots in North America before making its way over the Atlantic to Europe.