The Beauty and Elegance of the Windsor Chair

The Windsor chair is one of classic elegance and delicate features that result in surprising strength. It is defined by the how the back and legs are secured to the seat. In a standard chair, the back forms continuous uprights with the back legs to which the seat is secured. In a Windsor chair, however, the back and legs are separately anchored to the seat by round tenons.

The basic foundation of a Windsor chair allows for a large variety within the style, which we will explore here visually. Any type of chair may be made in the Windsor style. Here are just a few.

Side and Multi-Use Chairs

Side Chair by Timothy Clark

Stools

Stool by Jim Becker

Benches

Bench by Timothy Clark

Long Bench by Timothy Clark

Settee by Pete Michelinie

Chair with Desk

Jeffersonian Chair with Desk by Timothy Clark

Office Chairs

Office Chair with Rolling Base by Timothy Clark

While it’s the way the back and legs are joined with the seat that defines a Windsor, you’ll notice that the delicate features of the seat consistently stand out. The comfort of the seat results from a careful interplay of depth, curve, and slant. Sitting on a flat board isn’t comfortable, but neither is a seat with a deep groove that forces you into position. The nuance of the seat must be just so in order to get the perfect feel. Sometimes, a saddle-esque shape will be cut into the seat as well.

Saddle type seat on child’s highchair by George Sawyer

The final unique quality of the Windsor that we will explore is the back. There are many varieties as you’ve probably noticed in the pictures above. How the back is designed alters both form and function of the chair.

Perhaps the most basic Windsor design is the fan back or spindle back, wherein the spindles are connected by a single cross-piece at the top. The spindles can either be vertical or fanned out, as the name suggests. Simple and classic, this style is probably what you think of when you think of a Windsor.

Spindle back chair by Richard Bissell

Fan Back Chair by George Sawyer

One of the defining examples of a Windsor is the comb-back style which, as the name suggests, look like an old-style comb. An extra tier of spindles is delineated by a second cross-piece that forms the arms of the chair.

Comb Back Chair by George Sawyer

To go with the typical steam-bent elegance of the common hand-crafted Windsor, many feature a continuous arm that joins the spindles of the back in one piece, while providing an arm rest.

Continuous Arm Chair by George Sawyer

Continuous Arm Chair by Richard Bissell

A visual combination of the comb back and continuous arm chairs, the sack back chair adds strength and intricate beauty to the Windsor.

Windsor Sackback

Sack Back by George Sawyer

Alternatively, you can have the aesthetic of the continuous arm chair without the arms. The bow back chair, also called hoop back or balloon back, has a continuous back that connects to the seat along with the spindles.

Bow Back Chair by Jim Becker

Balloon Back Chair by George Sawyer

There are many types of Windsor chairs, making them amongst the most popular items made by our Guild members. Here, we’ve looked at just a few to give you a launching point for discussion of your own custom built Windsor chair with your furniture maker.

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