Monday, January 11, 2010

A Case of Mistaken Identity



QUESTION: I saw a Queen Anne dining set in a shop, and it appears to be old, however the chairs are upholstered in a ‘vinyl’ material which also appears old, but is this an antique?

ANSWER: I get questions like this a lot. Most of the time, the persons asking them think that because a piece of furniture is in a particular style that it’s an antique. But they fail to realize that certain popular styles of furniture have been reproduced over and over throughout the last several centuries.

From the photo, I could tell that the dining table and chairs had been made in the Queen Anne style, but I could also tell right away that it wasn’t an antique. The giveaway was the extra leaves in the table. From the looks of it, I'd say the set might be as old as the 1930s, but I'm leaning more to the 1960s. Let’s see why.


At the time Queen Anne was popular in the 18th century, dining tables like this one with added leaves didn't come into use until the 19th century. During the 1750s, joyners–the person’s who made furniture–made Queen Anne dining tables as drop-leaf tables with large leaves or wings that could be folded up and stood against a wall until ready for use. In many cases, the owners stood them in their front hallways to allow for more space. A wealthy 18th-century family would have only used a larger table like this when dining with guests. They often ate at a smaller table by the fire, especially in winter, or had “tea”–what we call supper–in their bedrooms by the fire. When not in use as a dining table, they may have used it for other things and stood the chairs against the wall around the room.

At the end of the 19th century, a style called Colonial Revival came into popularity because of the colonial exhibits at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Furniture makers began to make what they thought looked like colonial furniture although it was often stylized and lacked the fine details of the original.

That said, this table and chairs did seem to be well constructed of solid woods and, therefore might sell for somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000. But don’t mistake the identity of this dining set for the real thing. It isn’t.

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