What Goes Around Comes Around

BY CHRISTINE BOCKELMAN ON MARCH 11TH, 2016

Mid-century modern has been a popular style for some time, and although America’s love affair with clean lines and simple shapes continues, there’s another player jockeying for position in the living room. Antiques are making a comeback.

“I think people are finally realizing that antiques possess a charm and a depth of character that mid-century modern will never have,” says Jennifer Boles, founder of popular blog The Peak of Chic and author of “In With The Old: Classic Decor from A to Z” (Potter Style, 2013).

The trending pieces aren’t necessarily the fussy, oversized armoires and armchairs from your grandma’s house, although these can be updated with new upholstery (geometric prints) or finishes (shiny lacquers).

“Some of the traditional lines are back again, but it’s a simple, elegant aesthetic and not claw feet,” says Mindy Miles Greenberg, owner of interior design firm Encore Interior Design, New York City.

Not convinced? Chances are you already own some furniture with a past and don’t know it. Read on for the history of a few styles that are perfectly placed in any modern home.

Windsor Chair

The Windsor chair hails from the United Kingdom, where it was originally used as a garden chair because they were so light and easy to carry around. Eventually, the chair’s comfortable inclined back and solid, durable seat convinced people to bring it indoors, and the chair became common in the pubs, libraries and schools of England. In America, it’s said Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence sitting in one.

“The same reason that these chairs were popular in the 18th century – they are light and portable – makes them useful today,” says Amy Azzarito, author of “Past & Present: 24 Favorite Moments in Decorative Arts History” (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2013).

Chaise Longue

Note the spelling here. This is not any pedestrian lounge chair. Instead, the chaise longue – literally long chair in French – was the perch of choice for Cleopatra and it’s been in use ever since.

The Romans made theirs of wood covered in animal skins and pillows, and the Victorians and even Modernists were fans.

“It is still the perfect piece for nearly any room of the house, from the bedroom for a little spot for napping to the living room, where it’s perfect for stretching out and reading or watching TV,” Azzarito says.

Trestle Table

Trestle tables date back to the Middle Ages. “Medieval castles didn’t have a room devoted to dining,” Azzarito says. “Instead, eating happened in the great hall or in a formal bedchamber, so it was of the upmost importance that tables could be quickly set up and then taken back down again.”

While the modern trestle tables share design elements with their ancestors, they are much more permanent.

“Of course, you could always use a board and two sawhorses for the same medieval effect,” Azzarito says.

Curule Stool

This stool, with its X-shaped legs, is another piece that originated with the Egyptians – it dates back to at least 494 BC – and later adopted by the Romans. Julius Caesar sat on one, and other kings and dignitaries also used it on battlefields, while driving their chariots and as a camp stool.

It also popped up on the Chinese Silk Road.

“Even after thousands of years of use, the X-stool still looks pretty fantastic in the modern home. It’s perfect at a dressing table; or use two at the foot of a bed or in the entryway,” Azzarito says.

 

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