When our designers chose a statement chair for our Connecticut redesign project, 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 hails from the British Isles. They’re named for the fact that they were first used in the Windsor Castle garden in 18th century England. According to “Chairs: A History by Florence de Dampierre”, it was Queen Elizabeth who conceived of the chair’s form as a way to provide wind protection. While the wind barrier capabilities were certainly useful, it was the portability of the chair that became its biggest selling point. And by the late 1750s, the English Windsor chair was ubiquitous indoors as well as outdoors and were found everywhere from inns and taverns to libraries and meeting houses.
So how did an British chair become an East Coast classic? We have the Founding Fathers to thank for that. The first Windsor chairs were made in Philadelphia and became hugely popular around the time of the Revolution. The chairs were such an important part of the life in the new country that Thomas Jefferson was said to have written the Declaration of Independence in one of these chairs, and Martha Washington had needlework cushions made for George Washington’s collection of twenty-seven Windsor chairs at Mount Vernon. From the Founding Fathers, there was a bit of a trickle down effect, and chair production spread throughout the colonies, with each region putting its own local spin on the chair. These days, when you’re shopping for a Windsor chair, you have plenty of choices.
High Back Windsor Chair
From dramatic high backed Windsor, like those that designer Ilse Crawford chose for the Grand Hotel Stockholm (above) to chairs with a smaller footprint, perfect for apartment living, there’s a Windsor for everyone.