The cost of 18th century antique dining chairs can be prohibitively expensive anyway, so for those of us on a more modest budget, revival and reproduction would be the way to go. However, being able to identify certain designers and styles, and perhaps a handmade original piece from a machine made revival, is quite useful. Although not all antique dining chairs follow the styling of Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton, many do, so having a working knowledge of what these chairs may look like is also a good place to start.
As Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton were furniture designers rather than makers, it will be difficult if not impossible to find a piece of 18th century furniture that can be attributed to one of these designers. However, understanding what a chair by one of these makers may look like and knowing the difference between a period Chippendale chair and a Victorian Chippendale revival will help. The difference in age between these two is around 100 years. Both will have the characteristic bow shaped top rail and the pierced and highly carved splat and cabriole leg. However, the earlier period chair will have been handmade and the carving more free flowing, whereas the splat of the Victorian revival piece will be more stylised where it is machine carved rather than handmade. Often period examples will have acanthus carvings on the knees of the cabriole leg where the legs on revival chairs will be plainer.
Neo classical design was also revived during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and throughout the 20th century. The designs of Hepplewhite and Sheraton tended to be much simpler than those of Chippendale, although there are plainer period and revival versions of Chippendale antique dining chairs around. Hepplewhite's designs followed more in the style of Robert Adam and the backs of his chairs were often oval or shield shaped and legs tapered rather than cabriole. Sheraton's designs were rectilinear with plain styling and square backs and turned tapered legs. His designs were revived heavily during the Edwardian period and because of their plain styling, remain very popular today.
During the Victorian era, many much earlier styles of chair were also revived and mass production was able to produce many pastiches, such as Jacobethan and Victorian Gothic which are essentially copied from different elements of period detail. However, there were many very fine faithful reproductions of 18th century originals made during this period and these later pieces tend to hold their value well.
Spotting a genuine antique dining chair is therefore not an exact science and you should go and see a reputable antique dealer before handing out large amounts of cash. When looking for antique dining chairs in Lancashire, local dealers will be able to advise you on age, style, quality and investment potential.