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Armchairs are among the most artistic and comfortable pieces of furniture ever invented. An entire room can be designed around an armchair, which is part of why collectors love them. Antique armchairs can go for thousands at auction, but a piece does not have to be handed down from European royalty to be valuable. Some of the most innovative designs originate in Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, mid-century modern, or contemporary variations of these styles.
Armchairs combining elegance and function evolved during the Ming and Qing dynasties in China due to the abundance of hardwood and the use of mortise and tenon joinery. Made of unembellished wood, chairs from this period bear a stunning simplicity. Like the Chinese armchair, African armchairs often resemble miniature thrones. The African variety is made of elaborately decorated wood and is used to denote a leader’s social status.
European armchairs morphed into various stages of exuberant ornamentation from the 17th century through the Victorian age. Many of the design styles such as Queen Anne and Georgian have earned a permanent place in the history of chair design. The onset of Mid-century Modern and contemporary modern styles brought the world chairs that vary from the epitome of simplicity to bright hues on natural and industrial forms.
A pair of late 19th to early 20th century William and Mary style camel back armchairs brought $4,927 in a 2015 auction at Christie’s
A pair of rounded and scooped mid-century brass and fabric Italian armchairs sold for $5,000 at Sotheby’s in a 2012 auction
A pair of Jean Royere Ambassador armchairs sold for $233,000 at a Phillips New York auction in 2015