When our designers selected a statement chair for our redesign project in Connecticut, they reached for a design classic, the Windsor chair. Like many of our favorite things – tweeds, the Anglepoise lamp, and Terrance Conrad, to name a few – the chair is from the British Isles. They are named for the fact that they were first used in the gardens of Windsor Castle in 18th century England. According to “Chairs: A Story of Florence de Dampierre”, it was Queen Elizabeth who conceived the shape of the chair as a way to protect the wind. While the windbreak capabilities were certainly useful, the chair’s portability became its biggest selling point. By the late 1750s, the English Windsor chair was ubiquitous both indoors and outdoors and was found everywhere from inns and taverns to libraries and meetinghouses.
How did a British chair become an East Coast classic? We have to thank the founding fathers for this. The first Windsor chairs were made in Philadelphia and became very popular during the Revolution. The chairs were such an important part of life in the new country that Thomas Jefferson is said to have written the Declaration of Independence in one of them, and Martha Washington had handcraft cushions made for George Washington’s collection of 27 Windsor chairs on Mount Vernon. There was a certain trickle effect from the founding fathers, and chair production was spread across the colonies, with each region putting its own local spin on the chair. When you buy a Windsor chair these days, your options are many.
High-back Windsor chair
From the dramatic high-back Windsor, as selected by designer Ilse Crawford for the Grand Hotel Stockholm (above), to smaller footprint chairs that are perfect for apartment living, there is a Windsor for everyone.
Turquoise Windsor chair
Red Windsor chair
Hay Windsor chair
Pink Windsor side chair