Google+ House Revivals: Do You Have a Statement Chair?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Have a Statement Chair?

I was recently asked about a favorite statement chair in our home. We have this lovely curved back rosewood armchair, inherited from my husband's mother.  (This post is participating in Blogging A to Z. C is for Chair!)

It is a gorgeous chair that we have a strong sentimental attachment to. This particular chair represents a perfect blending of my love for patina and classic lines, and my husband's appreciation of sophisticated forms and meaningful family pieces.

It's a traditional Asian form, called a Quan Yi or Yuan Yi chair, which literally means round, or round backed. Sometimes these chairs are described as horseshoe chairs. Because the chairs were often reserved for persons of stature, you might also see one referred to as a monk's chair.

The rounded back of the Quan Yi chair is a very old design. This rare folding chair is from the Late Ming Dynasty and is in the collection of the Pacific Asia Museum. This chair has bas relief carvings on the back splat and has metal fittings and a woven cloth seat.

These Mid-Qing Dynasty chairs are from FaFa Gallery.  According to FaFa historians, "horseshoe chairs were used ceremonially and reserved for persons of high rank and social importance."

This pair of chairs is from the Shanxi region and is beautifully crafted from walnut. The "shou" character on the back splat symbolizes longevity.  I have absolutely no idea what the symbol on the back of my chair means -- any ideas? Does it look like the longevity symbol?

As with so many other beautiful classic forms, modern adaptations of Quan Yi forms might be found in acrylic, like this gorgeous red acrylic chair

This pair of huanghuali chairs are from the seventeenth century and feature intricately carved splats.

Huanghuali literally translates "yellow flowering pear" wood. Huanghuali is part of the rosewood family.

My own Quan Yi chair is of much more humble origins!  It is most likely 1960's vintage, and was no doubt crafted for the tourist trade. The seat is lower than typical Quan Yi, and it has cabriole legs and ball and claw feet. It is a lovely and well-made piece. Quan Yi chairs are still made today, but the quality is not nearly as nice as this 1960's vintage chair.

There are two stories floating around about how this chair joined the family. One story is that my father-in-law, an Air Force navigator, purchased our chair in Thailand, after one of many missions flown over Vietnam dropping propaganda leaflets! He and the rest of the crew often had stopovers in Thailand before returning home to Okinawa. They would sometimes buy gifts to bring back to their wives, and carry them in the cargo hold of their plane.

The second story has my mother-in-law flying to Thailand from Okinawa for a much needed R&R (war wife with six kids)!  She returned with a bag full of shopping receipts, and this chair was delivered a few weeks later.  The real story? Nobody is sure. Either story could be true -- there was an extravagant shopping trip to Thailand, and cool stuff did come home in the cargo hold of a bomber.

The thing that surprises our guests the most about the chair is how comfortable it is!  The curved back splat and arms fit your body perfectly, and it doesn't seem to matter if you are five foot three or six foot three! According to a writer from FaFa Gallery, when seated in a Quan Yi chair, "one is warmly greeted by a gentle, fond embrace."

Do you have a statement chair in your home?

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