The Fernleaf Chair

This cheery, carefully preserved garden chair stands outdoors in the summer months, near to the sea and close to fragrant blossoms of honeysuckle.

Luckily the chair is heavy enough and sturdy enough to stand up to all those stiff sea breezes without being blown away. There are times when this narrow spit of land is lashed by gales so vicious that trees and roofs in these parts grow wings, causing all sorts of trouble as they hurtle through the air.

“A couple of nice chairs,” I tell myself. “A good choice.”

I’m sure it goes without saying that a chair like this deserves to have a name all of its own – and so it has. This is the fernleaf chair. There is also a matching bench and table. When the design first saw the light of day at the Great Exhibition that was held in London in 1851, it took the world by storm. Copies, particularly of the bench, were soon to be seen here, there and everywhere – not least in parks and gardens throughout the length and breadth of England. Even today, garden furniture of the same design is still being made in Sweden by Byarums Bruk.

During the second half of the twentieth century Count Lennart Bernadotte, grandson of Sweden’s King Gustav V, ordered countless white fernleaf-style benches from Byarum for his palace at Mainau in southern Germany. To this day they still stand proudly there, as handsome embellishments in the famous palace gardens.

Here, far from Mainau, as part of a shared inheritance from parents, these fernleaf chairs evoke fond memories of childhood gardens. There is a bench, too, but as so often happens when possessions are inherited, one of the children became the owner of the chairs, while the other acquired the bench. I suppose we should at least be grateful that the garden suite remains within the same family, but nonetheless … Whatever would the solution have been, I wonder, had there been three siblings?

When it comes to tracing the origins of cast iron furnishings like these, you could say that they were precursors of the Art Nouveau style that emerged around 1890 and which often took its inspiration from the sinuous natural forms of plants and flowers. The chair’s intricate fernleaf design is enchanting without being over-effusive. Today the series is manufactured in aluminium.

by Gun Bjerkander Handberg

Note From Editor:

All books from the Please Be Seated – Historic Chair series will soon be available from our Vind & Våg Publishing Bookstore on our own website. We shall be putting together a bundle offer were you will be able to order all three charming books by Gun Bjerkander Handberg at a very special price. We shall also be offering the chance to pre-order the Blog Anthology, which will be released in autumn 2022.

We shall be sharing more news in August and wish you a wonderful summer, hopefully sitting in a nice chair in the shade somewhere…..