Identification of Antique Chair Styles With Pictures

Antique chairs are some of the most difficult items to identify correctly. Did you know that these humble pieces of furniture can sell for thousands of dollars? This demand is why you must know how to identify antique chair styles correctly. Otherwise, you could lose your hard-earned money on a Morris thinking it’s a Bergère.

Are you looking to buy an authentic vintage chair? We advise you to be patient and read our ultimate guide for identifying antique chairs before purchasing. There are about 20 to 30 different antique chair styles. This guide will teach you how to identify them and ensure you never mistake an imitation for a valuable antique chair.

So please sit back and relax as we embark on a journey through history!

History of Antique Chairs and Their Styles

Chairs were often seen as symbols of power and prosperity throughout history. The Royalty of different eras demanded a lot from furniture makers. So, these craftsmen came up with intricate designs and ideas, some of which have withstood the test of time.

Antique Chair Design Periods

The significant furniture design periods are listed below:

  • Elizabethan (1520 to 1620)
  • Early American (1640 to 1700)
  • Carolean/Restoration (1660 to 1685)
  • Queen Anne Chairs (1720 to 1760)
  • Rococo (1730 to 1770)
  • Chippendale (1750 to 1780)
  • Shaker (1787 to 1860)
  • Sheraton (1790 to 1820)
  • American Empire (1805 to 1830)
  • Victorian (1830 to 1900)
  • Arts and Crafts (1880 to 1910)
  • Art Nouveau Style (1880 to 1910)
  • Edwardian (1901 to 1910)
  • Art Deco (1925 to 1940)
  • Mid-Century Modern (1933 to 1965)

How to Identify Antique Chair Styles

Antique chair identification can be easy if you know what to look for. Let’s move on to examples of every antique chair style. These will help you identify each chair’s category, even if you cannot pinpoint its origin. To identify antique chairs, you must look for the following things:

  1. The maker’s initials or a stencil.
  2. The year of manufacture.
  3. Iconic designs that are indicative of certain eras.

Being able to identify an antique chair correctly will enable you to enter the market with confidence and find pieces that can easily increase in value over time. We believe that every collector should own antique chairs as they are an excellent investment. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Side Chairs

Antique Side Chairs
Antique Side Chairs (thesprucecrafts)

Side chairs are dining chairs usually without any arms. This chair type was typically reserved for the dining room but was also used in other house areas. Some dining chairs also have arms which is why we will also discuss them in this section. The basic side chair is a truly timeless design, and chances are you already have some variation of it in your house.


Hitchcock Chair
Hitchcock Chair (1stdibs)

Lambert Hitchcock invented the Hitchcock side chair in the 1980s. Hitchcock sold cheaper chairs using new stenciling techniques rather than using paint as decoration. In the following years, more than half-million American people bought these stylish and affordable Hitchcock chairs.

The Hitchcock chair was a mass-produced fancy side chair. The name “fancy chair” is generic and describes a painted chair with complex stencil art. A Hitchcock chair is one whose origin traces back to Lambert Hitchcock’s Connecticut workshop. These chairs often have rush seats and are painted in dark colors. To know if the Hitchcock chair is authentic, one must match the stencil on the back panel with those produced by the Hitchcock chair company.


Ladder-Back Chair
Ladder-Back Chair

This chair style is dated back to the Middle Ages and was most often used for country furniture. Although more formal versions also existed, the elegance of this design comes from its simplicity. The ladder-back design is used to this day and represents a minimal lifestyle.

This style is also called the slat back design. Chairs of this style have a slender design, and the back is made of two poles joined by several horizontal pieces which look like a ladder. These connecting pieces can be straight or curved. In a well-made ladder-back chair, the thickness of the horizontal pieces compliments the height of the overall chair.

Ribbon Back

Mid-18th Century Ribbon Back Chair
Mid-18th Century Ribbon Back Chair (metmuseum)

The style originated in the early 18th century. It is often associated with Chippendale chairs, whose original design also had a bow in the center. Ribbon back is now used more loosely to refer to any chair with an intricately pierced and carved splat (the vertical element of the chair back).

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The ribbon back style features a decorative, pierced splat. This splat is usually formed of two long wood pieces interlaced together to look like a tied ribbon. Many ribbon back chairs also have a ribbon carved into the splat. These inlaid designs are what give this style a royal look.


Shaker Chair
Shaker Chair (shaker-chair)

The origin of this design is traced to a section of the Protestant church known as the Shakers. The style features straight legs with a minimal design. There is nothing decorative or fancy about the functional shaker chair.

The most popular style of the Shaker chair is the traditional ladder back, but many other styles were used throughout history. The Windsor style and everyone’s favorite rocking shaker chair are just some examples. Simplicity is what defines these chairs, and they are rarely painted.


Windsor Chair
Windsor Chair (tudor-oak)

The Windsor chair gets its name from the English town of Windsor. The style originated around 1710 and has been manufactured throughout the centuries. Modern versions of this iconic chair are also being sold to this day. Windsor chairs are also an excellent investment in today’s market.

Windsor chairs are all wood with backs and sides consisting of multiple thin, turned spindles attached to a solid, sculpted seat. The straight legs in this chair style are angled outward. Some Windsors have thicker and more decorative splats with spindles on each side, while others only have spindles on the back.

Yoke Back

Yoke Back Chair
Yoke Back Chair (shimu)

This style is also known as the yoke-crest. The design originated with Chinese chairs but was widely used in many American furniture styles, such as Queen Anne and Chippendale.

Yoke-back refers to the shape of the top rail in which two S shaped pieces emulate the curve of an ox yoke. The yoke-shaped element can protrude beyond the chair’s stiles. Styles of back splats used with yoke-back top rails can vary. A vase or urn shaped splat is not uncommon in a yoke-back chair.

Curule Chair

Curule Chair
Curule Chair (turbosquid)

This design originated in ancient Rome but was heavily used in Europe throughout the 20th century. In early Rome, this chair represented political power and military strength. Thus, it was subsequently used by Kings in Europe.

The ingenious design of the curule chair allows it to be folded and carried, making it perfect for Royalty during a war campaign. These chairs feature curved legs and arm rails that can be closed into each other. They are also decorated with intricate carvings. It is quite easy to recognize a Curule chair due to its unique design.

Fauteuil Chair

Fauteuil Chair
Fauteuil Chair (

The fauteuil is a type of chair that originated in Paris, France. Throughout the reign of Louis XV, these chairs became lighter, more graceful, and increasingly ornamental. Fauteuil is also a part of the many parlor furniture styles used throughout the centuries.

Fauteuils are usually upholstered armchairs with open sides. The original chairs were made from walnut, and the seats were covered in silk embroidery. These chairs also have intricate carvings and are very comfortable. Do not get this style confused with a Bergère as both can appear quite similar.

Morris Chair

Morris Chair
Morris Chair (amishoutletstore)

This chair is named after renowned designer William Morris and was made in the early 1800s by Morris & Company. You may think that the demand for an adjustable chair started in the 21st century, but this style was very popular in the 1900s.

The Morris chair is the predecessor to the modern recliner. It has heavy legs, a wide seat, and an adjustable back. Sometimes these chairs also have a small stool for putting up your feet. Most Morris chairs have leather seats and are quite heavy.

Bergère Chair

Bergère Chair
Bergère Chair (1stdibs)

This style was introduced at the beginning of Louis XV’s reign. During this time, furniture became less formal and changed according to the latest fashions. Hence chairs became more comfortable for sitting. The affluent French people widely adopted the Bergère design during the 1700s.

A Bergère is a kind of armchair that is upholstered between the arms and the seat. These chairs are always intricately carved and are extremely comfortable due to the luxurious upholstery. Embroidery is also quite common in these chairs.

Porter’s Chair

Porter's Chair
Porter’s Chair (breezefurnishings)

Originating from the 16th century, the French Porter’s Chair was an aesthetically functional chair for porters or sentries observing out of wealthy houses. It was therefore designed as a high back chair surrounded by a leather cushion for protection from the cold. Several of these models even included a small storage cupboard underneath the seating.

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This chair became redundant in the early 20th century, yet some pieces remain. This style can easily be recognized by its big balloon-like shape. These chairs were crafted with premium materials such as leather to provide insulation from freezing conditions. The design is very uncommon, making it quite valuable.

Victorian Balloon-Back Style

Victorian Balloon-Back Chair
Victorian Balloon-Back Chair

This style was originally conceived as the latest addition to the previous colonial style balloon chair. These chairs were popular from 1830 through 1850. The design was popular among collectors in the past but is somewhat unpopular in the current market.

This eccentric chair of the Victorian age features a distinctively balloon shaped back and often an embroidered velvet upholstery seat. The declining demand may also work in your favor as it allows people to purchase old ballon-back chairs at much lower prices. Every design is subjective, and we think ballon-back chairs are underrated.

Tub Chairs

Tub Chair
Tub Chair (pinterest)

Furniture historians believe the Tub style dates to the 18th century. Tub chairs were used in the royal courts of monarchs like Louis XVI. The style has a distinctively masculine tradition, being used in gentleman’s clubs and community halls. In contrast, Tub chairs today are manufactured with floral designs and bright fabrics. Antique tub chairs are hard to come by and can fetch a pretty penny.

The tub chair has a distinctive shape defined by the low-to-the-ground seat. The backs of these chairs are upholstered, which makes them comfortable to sit on. Intricate designs are carved into each Tub chair, and they often have curved front legs.

Wingback Chair

Wingback Chair
Wingback Chair (qualiteak)

The wingback chair was created in 17th century England by some clever designers. This style was probably the largest influence on the modern sofa. Traditionally these chairs were placed right next to the fireplace. The slender wings provided shelter from the draft and created a cozy cocoon that provided warmth.

This high back chair is covered in fully padded upholstery, making it incredibly comfortable. Leather is often used as a great insulator for cold weather. The chairs are lower to the ground than traditional styles. They also have intricate patterns carved on the legs and the top rail.

You can watch the following YouTube video to learn about establishing the age of an antique chair:

Savonarola Chair

Savonarola Chair
Savonarola Chair (pinterest)

These chairs were named after Frederic Girolamo Savonarola. They were popular in the 15th century. The chairs were symbols representing the influence of an empire and were used in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Even the modern director’s seat is an homage to this beautiful cross-legged chair.

These chairs are also known as Dante chairs due to their medieval influence. An X shape and curved legs characterize a Savonarola. Such elaborate designs require skilled craftsmanship. You would be hard pressed to find a style similar to the Savonarola.

Chaise Longue

Chaise Longue
Chaise Longue

Artisans in 16th century France hoped to combine a chair with a bed resulting in a lovely long sofa bed. During the entire day, this provided an easy sleeping area without returning to one’s bed. Ancient Greeks and Romans also had the same style of furniture.

This design is easily recognizable due to its sheer size. It would be quite difficult to confuse this style with any other as no other style resembles a Chaise Longue. One can easily lie down and nap on this “chair”. It is also incredibly comfortable if you want to sit for long periods.

Klismos Chair

Klismos Chair
Klismos Chair (incollect)

This style originated in ancient Greece. Modern renditions of the chair honor ancient artisans and retain the original contours and curves. Klismos chairs left an important impact on French, English, and American culture that continues to spill into the modern furniture industry.

This timeless chair has rounded sides and a curved back. Each leg is curved, and the chairs are low to the ground. Klismos chairs are known for their sweeping lines and aesthetic beauty. The comfort offered by the concave backrest is also undeniable. The original design has no upholstery, and the seat is made from interlocked rope or rush.

Chippendale Chair

Chippendale Chair
Chippendale Chair (britannica)

Thomas Chippendale is credited with inventing this style of furniture. Chippendale furniture is renowned for its distinctive design. Thomas Chippendale not only created the design but also found clients and organized workshops in St. Martin’s Lane, London.

The Chippendale Chair features an elegant style that draws heavily on the classic curves and Gothic appeal. The design also embraces its scapular legs. All this to say, if the chair looks like it belongs to Dracula, then it is probably a Chippendale. These chairs have carved splats which at times can look quite menacing.

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Slipper Style

Victorian Walnut Slipper Chair
Victorian Walnut Slipper Chair (pinterest)

The slipper chair was originally introduced in the 18th century. Normally these chairs were found inside ladies’ quarters. Nonetheless, American designer Billy Baldwin incorporated these to re-design living rooms, causing their popularity to rise.

The initial design of the building featured luxurious materials and ornamented sculptures, but modern interpretations make them appear much simpler. These are big, bulky chairs with upholstered backs. The legs are often curved, and the back is angled for a comfortable sitting experience.

Hepplewhite Chairs

Hepplewhite Chair
Hepplewhite Chair (neohoreca)

This style is named after George Hepplewhite, a well-known English cabinetmaker of the 1800s. He was well-known for his smooth lines, contrasting colors, and rich timbers, including Rosewood and Birch. Unfortunately, this style has many imitations, and an authentic Hepplewhite chair is hard to come by.

Hepplewhite chairs are known for having beautifully embroidered seats with solid wood backs. These chairs usually do not have any arms and feature curved back legs. They also have a distinct fancy look due to the metallic colors used. Hepplewhite furniture is elegant without any carvings or ornaments.

Corner Chair

Antique Corner Chair
Antique Corner Chair

The style was introduced in England in the early 18th century and then brought to the United States. It was designed to be easily stored in a corner and used as an extra chair when needed. This niche use case meant only a few corner chairs were bought and used regularly.

This chair typically has square seats oriented diagonally to ensure a comfortable tucking in a corner. The three side legs and back rise above the chair to become part of back support and arm support. This chair style has become quite rare, and modern manufacturers do not make it. This rarity, however, also means that an antique corner chair in good condition can sell for a lot in the collector’s market.

Queen Anne Style

Queen Anne Style Chair
Queen Anne Style Chair

Queen Anne style of furniture, sometimes referred to as late baroque furniture, came to prominence during the reign of Queen Anne, which took place from 1702 through 1714. The furniture was popular not only in England but also in the American colonies.

This style emphasizes line and form and does not have any ornaments. The curved top rail and the cushioned seats are of note. The back legs of these chairs are also curved, and floral patterns are used in the embroidery. The conical front legs are also of note.

Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century Modern Chair
Mid-Century Modern Chair (gingkofurniture)

Mid-century modern designs are about functionality, and that brings with it simplicity. The mid-century modern accent chairs use sleek and clean lines that were common after the Second World War. The chairs did not have fancy ornamentation and were very functional.

These chairs are low to the ground and are used in informal gatherings. This style is quite new compared to the styles mentioned earlier. The cushions are often removable allowing one to replace them if needed. It is highly likely that you have this style of chair at your home.


Sheraton Chair
Sheraton Chair (pinterest)

Thomas Sheraton is credited with the creation of the Sheraton style of furniture. This style is a late 18th-century Neoclassical English furniture style. This style resembles the side chair design but notably has arm rails.

The Sheraton design often has carvings and intricate curved pieces, which give it an antique look. The back of the chair is often lower than in traditional styles, which makes the chair look more squared off. The seat is often a single piece of wood, and a cushion is used which fits on the seat perfectly.


If you want more information about what to look for in antique furniture, you can watch the following YouTube video:

Vintage furniture is truly a difficult world to navigate. This was our ultimate guide for identifying antique chair styles. We hope you found the information useful and easy to follow.

Each antique chair style has a history behind it. Only by knowing this history can one truly appreciate their beauty and craftsmanship. Do let us know which antique design is your favorite in the comments below.

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