The farmhouse look is having a respectable resurgence in dining aesthetics, focusing on variations of the Windsor chair due to its smart-casual look and versatility. Here we offer a short history of the chair and introduce how Billiani’s ‘W’ range perfectly reinterprets a 290-year-old-design.
Windsor chairs originated in England in the seventeenth century and were, as you may have guessed, made in Windsor, although they were also made throughout the country during the time. By the mid-seventeenth century they were hugely popular in America, where many of the varieties came from the change in wood available which enabled stronger, often bolder designs.
Generally, chairs which are grouped together as being ‘Windsor’ simply have their back and legs attached to their seat. More specifically they have a horizontal comb-back or scroll-back or they have a bentwood curved outline. Bracing-sticks (diagonal supports) are often used for extra support for the backs where as armchair variations incorporate an ingenious arm-bow; a semi-circular length of bentwood which creates two arms and connects the rails across the back. The legs are often turned (shaped by spinning against cutting tools) and connected by a ‘H’ stretcher.
There are possibly hundreds of traditional variations on the Windsor chair and practically any modern ‘farmhouse’ or ‘country’ style chair will tend to be based on one of these designs. The Fan-back Windsor Chair, for instance, combines an arm-bow back with spindles topped with a connective piece of wood to support the spindles, it has a saddle seat and a H stretcher. A Fire-house Windsor, found in many a country-pub, also has an arm-bow back but the stretchers are singular and the front has a crossbar – offering an extra source of strength.
The Windsor chair like the chesterfield sofa is freely reproduced, reinterpreted and instantly recognisable, this sort of freedom of design and manufacture can lead to some poor quality products being available and can damage the products overall reputation. However some designers have boldly taken on the Windsor during the years and in turn have created lasting designs of their own, redefining the chair as a modern classic.
Lucian R Ercolani is one such British-designer. In the 1940’s Ercolani created Ercol Originals, a range of timeless and classic furniture focused on designs which reinstating the reputation of the Windsor. Ercolani also created the infamous Chairmakers chair a notoriously complex design, which Ercol states shows a ‘demonstration of our chair making skill’(© 2015 Ercol Furniture Ltd). Ercol Furniture is still popular throughout homes of the world and the range is hailed for holding many timeless classics.
Contract furniture has recently had a major overhaul, due to the ‘casual dining’ phenomenon. Diners now shun stuffy-dining rooms and instead seek good quality food in relaxed interiors. This has resulted in many traditions of eating-establishments being reinvented. Interior designers and contract furniture manufacturers have responded swiftly by adapting and reinventing traditional designs . The way in which Windsor chairs have been reinvented by contract furniture exprerts Billiani is a perfect example of this. Historically Windsor chairs have been painted due to the variegated nature of the wood, this lends itself perfectly to modern design where RAL colours can be used to produce bold and long lasting finishes.
Billiani launched the ‘W range’ in 2014, designed by award-winning furniture expert and visionary Fabrizio Gallinaro, all of which was based on the Windsor. The dining chair, lounge chair, barstool and high back chair all feature tapered legs (the dining chair and high back are also available with a rocking chair base) a bold move away from the Windsor tradition, but they do have a saddle seat and spindled back with an expertly crafted arm-bow top. All of the designs are crafted from Beech, where historically only the seats were, but modern techniques paired with respectful understanding and expertise ensure the back spindles and arm bow can be finished to perfection. As with all Billiani designs the pieces are contract-grade and built to last. The attention to thickness, angle and shape of the design provides a stunning aesthetic for the range which is seemingly simple yet rich in history.
The W range is truly a modern reinvention of the Windsor which is versatile, robust and stunningly simple.