Ask AT: Mid-century take on bentwood rocker is worth $275


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Mid-Century chrome rocking chair.


Q I bought this rocker in Florida six years ago and had it recovered. Could you give me the maker and value?
— E.S., Kalona, Iowa

A The manufacturer’s fiber-label would have been attached under the cushioned seat. Industrial elements and designs start appearing regularly in furniture of the 1950s and were usually created by architect designers. It was a time of fascinating creations and reconfiguring old styles throughout Europe and the United States. All in the name of ‘Modern,’ chrome was king from automobiles to furniture to toys. Some chairs were not just for sitting, they were treated as a work of art and moved to the decorative arts department of many stores. The famous 19th century Bentwood style chair was updated for the 20th century; this flat chrome-plated frame is one such interpretation. The style projected movement even when not in use, be it bentwood, nickel, chrome or Lucite. The flowing curves seem to stop without abruptness, and make it pleasing to the eye and room. The cushioned seat, high back and elbow-rests guarantee pleasure when seated. Often, a matching ottoman was offered. Using an industrial and commercial material, the domestic rocking chair crosses over, and was pronounced as ‘Modern.’ Value is $275.

Q Please tell me if I have an original Windsor chair, and what is it worth?
 —V.L., Howell, Mich.

A Outside Windsor, England, in the beech forests, mid-1700s, it appears Windsors were first constructed for rural garden seating at Windsor Castle. Within a few years, Philadelphia craftsmen adapted it to an American style using rich native woods located there. The term ‘Windsor’ is not one particular maker, manufacturer or date. Still being produced, there has been an endless procession of altered designs. Other than the back that creates variety, it is defined as having legs and spindles driven into a plank-seat. Your 20th century brace-back rocker is a refinement of construction. The bracing-tail extending off the seat-back has been known to have up to four spindles.

Without measurements, one can not know if yours is an adult or youth-size rocker. The marks of an extremely high-quality Windsor include exquisite turnings, perfect bowing, bulging spindles (up to 11), and contoured wood saddle-seat. Early ones had neither screws nor nails. The spindles and legs were set into seats of unseasoned lumber, which shrank as it dried and tightened better than most glue. Your Windsor-style rocker with bow-back crest-rail, sometimes called ‘loop-back,’ is valued at $150.

Q I picked up this comfortable chair at a yard sale a year ago and have not been able to find out any information. Can you help me, and value?
— C.H., Glendale, Ariz.

A Your spring-rocker is an example of oak furniture that was popular at the turn of 20th century. It lost favor up through the 1960s, until people discovered how sturdy and strikingly beautiful that refinished oak could be. Quartered oak is a cutting technique that wastes wood, but has less shrinkage and warping. As displayed here, skilled craftsmen took liberty with ingenious designs that allows natural wood patterns to be exhibited. Rocking chairs when not properly aligned can creep when in use. This chair was designed to rock from the base, not the floor. Front casters allowed it to be repositioned easily for conversation. Often, cushioned seats were added, with a changing of fabrics occurring through generations. Estimated value is $200.

Extra Rocking Chair FYI

It started with rocking cradles that were found to be comforting, calming and pleasing. It appears many old rocking chairs are converted straight chairs with rockers mounted to them, which easily can be detected. Rocking chairs have been made for dolls, children, nursing mothers, sewing-bees, and libraries. Rockers have been varnished, painted and stenciled, there are cane seats, needle-point and leather. Frames include wicker, paper-mâche and every kind of wood.

What staying power!

Barbara J. Eash, a member of The Certified Appraisers Guild of America, likes to say, “Antiques are memories that you can touch with your hand.” While living in Tennessee Eash coordinated the annual NBC Channel 3 appraisal fair and was known as the Chattanooga Antiques Lady. She has managed two antique shops, and has appraised for TV shows, clinics and in court. Now living in Wisconsin, she chairs Milwaukee Public Television’s annual appraisal fair. Her two office locations are in antiques shops in Waukesha and New Berlin, Wis.


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More Images:

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Windsor-style rocker
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Quarter-sawn oak spring rocker.
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Quarter-sawn oak spring rocker detail.

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