So Cheerful And Always Ready To Serve
These Gustavian-style chairs never fail to leave an impression on those who lay eyes on them. They linger in the memory even when they’re out of sight.
They were made in the 1960s to accompany an antique dining table – fashioned in mahogany sometime in the 1780s – for which there were no matching chairs. And that’s how some talented chairmakers, in the form of a father and his sons, came into the picture. These craftsmen have long since moved from their old address, but someone in the family seems to recall once having heard that they had a workshop “somewhere in the Greater London area”. Anyway, an order was placed for a dozen chairs, all with armrests, to be made in beech – an excellent choice for indoor furnishings and carved details.
The original covers, however, were never a great hit. So, not too long after they had been delivered, the chairs were fitted with the covers you can see in the pictures. Now everyone was blissfully happy with the result – not least the chairs themselves, standing proud and erect in a dining room that veritably radiated with their presence. As you might imagine, a chair is always eager to receive a little attention, a smile, an appreciative comment. But most of all, of course, it longs to be useful, to be needed.
As all twelve chairs have armrests, none has seen the need to assert itself, none has been made to feel less worthy or more fragile than its siblings.
In days gone by, certain chairs that lacked armrests could be made to feel that they were more feminine in nature. Women were often engaged in embroidering, knitting, sewing and darning, so chairs with arms were usually reserved for the man of the house with his newspaper and his pipe.
There is no knitting or sewing done in this household, however. Such activities are nowhere near as common today as they used to be.
Instead, the chairs are in daily use whenever the family gathers around the table at mealtimes. And in this home, mealtimes can be fairly lengthy affairs. The chairs are so comfortable, so cosy, that it’s tempting to stay put in them to discuss the topics of the day – anything from the street protest that passed noisily by earlier in the day to unforgettable holiday memories.
On ordinary working days and special occasions alike, the residents of the household invariably gravitate towards the dining room – and that is thanks, in no small measure, to the irresistible allure of these cheerful chairs.
As a curiosity, it’s also worth noting that the versatility of beechwood extends to its use as sticks for ice-cream and lollipops. Beech is smooth and clean and, when treated, the wood is taste-free, odour-free and doesn’t splinter.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
You can read more interesting insights into unique chairs from author Gun Bjerkander Handberg in her two books, Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and The Tales They Tell, & More Historic Chairs both published by Vind & Våg publishing House. Both books are available on Amazon, various online booksellers and by request at your local bookseller.
Follow the author on Instagram @pleasebeseatedhistorictales
Note from the editor: We would like to receive photos of your interesting chairs and the tales they tell, as we will be featuring them on a very special Please Be Seated blog post later this year. Simple email firstname.lastname@example.org with your chairs and tales, thank you!