That Chair for the Library  

Sit Back and Relax
Our salon auctions are the closest thing to a traditional auction experience and one of the privileges that comes with observing these auctions is discovering the patterns that reveal themselves over months and years. What struggles to find a buyer, what flies out the door, and what consistently finds an eager collector or decorator. Period wine tables are one of those great sellers and change-of-taste survivors, but the other that I have been noticing is the button-back armchair or library chair, and variations thereof. 

They are one of those period pieces of design that span the centuries and have remained on the wish lists of collectors and decorators alike. Placed in contemporary environments they can look just as at home and can relieve the unintended feeling of emptiness that contemporary living can create. When reimagined a little they can look simply splendid! 

While I agree that a well-worn example (but not with ripped and peeling leather) is often the ideal, I have seen wonderful reinterpretations of coverings. While some may have become a little cliché, one that has grabbed my attention is the use of metallic leather, yes – metallic leather. I can see our furniture purist David Parsons shuddering at the thought but when I say metallic, I refer to those deep leather colours with just a hint of the metallic. Not shiny to look garish, but with enough sparkle to ensure the owner knows they are sitting in something that has been re-thought. Woods are respected, construction is respected and so too design, so I can live with the idea that these examples need not be slavishly restored and can be given a little vigour. Would I suggest this treatment for examples with intact leather and lovely wear? No, because to recreate such a finish would take the best part of a century. But I would certainly suggest it’s worth a whirl when the leather is beyond repair and when shabby is no longer chic!

By John Albrecht, Chairman & Head of Important Collections

Top Image: A George III-style mahogany and upholstered wing armchair. Sold for $1,625

April 2024