How To Identify A Morris Chair? (6 Easy Ways Explained)

Looking for an elegant yet antique Morris chair that enhances the aesthetics of your furniture and home? However, are you facing difficulty spotting the original and actual Morris chair? 

Well, not anymore. I have explored ways to identify and separate a Morris chair from the rest. 

The New York Times defines the Morris chair as a chair featuring wide-armed arms, frames in dark stained oak, and adjustable backs. This chair comes from a wooden reclining chair designed by William Morris and Company in 1860. During this period, the arts and crafts movement emerged under the leadership of William Morris.

Now, this sounds interesting and tempting, and who wouldn’t want this relaxing and comforting chair? However, the more antique the chair, the more the possibility of it being a fake, right? 

This is where I will save you. How?

We have found ways to identify Morris chairs from the rest. Read on to find out! 

JUMP TO: Morris Chair History | Morris Chair Construction | Morris Chair Identification | Bottomline |

Key Takeaways

  • Morris chairs are the first reclining chairs made initially by Morris & Company. Later, the design was adapted by Gustav Stickley, who created another popular version of it, the Stickley Morris-style chair. 
  • If you want to identify a genuine Morris chair, you should look for a label or decal with the name of the Stickley Morris or the engraving of the furniture manufacturer. 
  • Spotting Morris chairs becomes easy with research and inspection of the chair, material, structure, and age. (since Morris chairs were created in the 1860s)
  • The best way to identify a Morris chair is to consult an expert. If you can directly consult the Stickley company, it will be the conclusive outcome.  

Morris Chairs: A Brief History

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Morris Chair, the “first recliner” of the 1860s, has come a long way. That is to say, the early Morris Chairs evolved from a frilly Victorian design to a heavier, substantial style developed in the early 1900s. Moreover, it has retained its popularity as an American Arts & Crafts Movement icon. 

A carpenter named Ephraim Colman from Sussex, England, is known for creating the prototype of a reclining chair. Warrington Taylor later refined it. Much later, the information was further passed on to a founding member of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, which later became Morris & Company. (The Victorian Web

The early Morris Chairs were highly decorative and somewhat bulky. Although, the simple lines and advanced craftsmanship of a Morris chair appealed to arts and crafts fans.

The later Morris chairs were the adaptations of American furniture designer Gustav Stickley and British design company Liberty and Company. These adaptations were a success since they did not lose the authenticity of the Morris chairs.  

Did you know?

Besides being a craftsman, William Morris was also an English poet, painter, and polemicist. He pioneered the production of functional furniture of an idealized traditional style in the 19th century. He believed in craftsmanship over mass-produced furniture at scale. 

Morris Chairs: Construction 

An original Morris chair construction consists of a chair seat and a back cushion. It has somewhat highly exposed wooden armrests and sides. Plus, The chair “reclines” by inserting pegs into holes or notches in the chair’s back.

(Nails are not used to hold parts in Morris Chair)

These low-tech distinguishing feature of the chair needs manual adjustment to set the chair at the proper angle. There exist no levers, springs, or sensors. Aside from the readily replaced pegs, there are no moving parts to wear out or break.

The material of the chair is solid wood, usually quarter-sawn white oak, and has warm golden hardwood to fit a homey living area. It is possible to bend, flatten, or bend the arms.

The sides are either slatted or solid panels for a classic Mission design, which was popular in the early 20th century. Thin cushions are typically made of leather but can also be woven from cloth.

Morris Chairs have been interpreted in several ways; some of them are:

  • Bow-armed,
  • Flat-armed,
  • Slant-armed, and
  • Cushioned-armed.

Notably, the Stickley chairs’ arms were shaped like paddles, while square slats supported their backs and arms. 

After this, one might wonder how Morris chairs are different and if there is any way to spot a real Morris-style chair from others. YES, there are ways to identify a Morris chair. 

Factoid: It has been decades since Morris chairs were hailed as the first recliners.

6 Ways To Identify A Morris Chair

We have discussed the best and most successful ways of identifying the antique, beautiful, and charming Morris chairs. 

Let us dive in and look at each one of them. 

Research 

Authentic research is the first and foremost way of spotting the real Morris chair. Before you can tell if your Morris-style recliner is an original piece by the William Morris Company, you should try reading about it. The following will help you understand what Morris chairs need to know. 

  • Book – ‘Arts & Crafts by Judith Miller
  • Websites – ‘The William Morris Society, ‘Stickley’, and many more.

TIP: Study the difference between authentic Morris chairs before WWI and modern imitated Morris chairs. 

Inspect the material 

Once you gather enough information about these chairs, it will be easy for you to find out a real Morris chair. Now, in order to distinguish a fake chair from a real one, the material becomes a secondary factor. How so?

The craft of an original Morris chair is dark stained oak and quarter-sawn white oak. Morris chairs associate with the Arts and Crafts movement because they emphasize constructing robust and clean-lined furniture. Moreover, the inspiration for the original Morris chairs was taken from the Victorian style. The chair came with a reclining back, including decorative spindles and cushioned armrests.

The early Morris chair, those designed by Morris himself, often had chair seats with sewn cushions and upholstered in wool tapestry.

Later variations, such as those made by Gustav Stickley, were bulkier and sleeker. Generally, they had wider arms looking like paddles and square slats holding the back and arms. 

Checking the material is another easy and simple way to spot an actual Morris chair.

TIP: Look for minor details like the sharpness and sharpness of the joints and the wood quality.

Image Credit: i.pinimg.com

Structure 

When determining antique Morris chairs, the unique structure becomes fairly important. Ensure that you pay attention to their body and structure, meaning examine the back of the drawer, sides, and bottom.

Unlike other pieces with curvy flourishes, this piece features straight lines and minimal visual embellishments besides those necessary for its function.  

Image Credit: chestofbooks.com

For instance, if the wood has scratches or cuts, it means that the chair was handcrafted. Plus, it indicates that the chair was carved with a plane, spokeshave, or drawknife.

An old piece will have straight saw marks, while a circular saw will show circular or arc-shaped marks. However, the circular saw was not widely available until around 1860.

You can easily check the chair’s authenticity by looking at simplified iterations of traditional designs featuring rectilinear shapes, flat arms, thick cushions, and reclining backs.

Inscription 

The Gustav Stickley Morris-style chair has three variations: the bent arm, the flat arm, and the bow arm. This is the reason the chair design of Gustav Stickley was frequently copied back then. 

Original ‘Stickley Morris-style’ chairs carried a decal or paper label having the Stickley Morris label. On the other hand, original ‘Morris’ chairs often include the engraved names of the furniture manufacturer.

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So, this is another way of identifying an original Morris and Stickley Morris-style chair from the other chairs. Look for the engraved names and the label. 

NOTE: The presence of either label does NOT imply that the piece is an authentic Morris chair. Along with the label, look for other markers to identify a Morris chair. 

Cost 

Another way of identifying a Morris chair is the cost. Why? Because Morris chairs are quite rare and may be rather expensive. The original Morris chairs from the nineteenth century, especially those built by Morris & Company, are scarce.

Speaking of cost, an early Gustav Stickley version may get more than $5000 on vintage auction sites. Some may sell for as much as $17,000, depending on age, condition, design, and expert opinion. Morris chairs from the early 1900s have been valued at approximately $3,000. 

However, the cost may vary based on the manufacturing company, material used, and structure. Therefore, look for the cost of the Morris chair to identify it. Basically, the higher the price, the more the chances it is authentic. 

Expert consultation 

Even after trying the above-given ways, there is a possibility of having doubt about whether it is an authentic Morris chair or not. At times like this, it is always better to take expert consultation. 

For this, you can talk to certified professionals. Professional appraisal organizations are a perfect place to find certified appraisers. You can also talk to the people from Stickley company to get an honest opinion about your chair.

Remember: The products from Stickley dealers and local partners who have Stickley-trained employees offer the highest level of authenticity.

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Bottomline

Genuine Morris chairs of the 1860s, including those built by Gustav Stickley, are quite rare these days. Although Morris chairs are still in the Mission or Arts & Crafts style.

Morris chair became an immediate classic due to its unique arms, low seat back, inclined top, and comfortable armrests. Being a classic design, several manufacturers have tried to imitate this chair. That is why always search for the label with the company name to ensure it is the first-generation piece and avoid disappointment later.

Apart from the label, try to gather information about the Morris chairs, which are readily available on the internet. In addition, examine the material, meaning it should be either dark-stained oak or quarter-sawn white oak. Please pay attention to the back of the drawer, sides, and bottom when it comes to structuring. However, if none of these ways work, you can always take an expert opinion. 

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