It’s that time of year when the days are short and the nights can feel endless. At the end of a busy day all I want to do is light the fire and snuggle down with a glass of wine and relax!
To complete the rural idyll though, you need the perfect chair. A chair that envelops you, keeping you protected from any drafts and the sound of the wind and rain outside. Step forward the Orkney Chair, the perfect seat for the job and a thing of beauty to behold.
I first came across this chair as a child and was fascinated by its unusual and tactile design. A chair that felt it kept you protected and private from the outside world. It wasn’t until four years ago, when on my travels, I stumbled upon one in excellent condition and bought it on the spot. As the name suggests this Orcadian chair originates from the Orkney Islands, lying off the most northerly part of Scotland between the Hebridean and Shetland Islands.
The style of this chair has really evolved over centuries from the history of the island and the people living there. The remote location meant that Orcadian crofters had to be self sufficient, making their homes and their furniture from from whatever was locally sourced.
Houses were traditionally built from stone and the roofs made from oat straw, a crop that grows reliably throughout Scotland and its islands. For the summer months are filled with near continual daylight, ensuring a strong and rapid growth.
Trees are not commonplace with such a maritime climate and the luxury of wood would have been that of driftwood from a shipwreck or a tree that had come from a far away shore. As trading and communications opened up in the mid 1800s, so changes occurred to the style of chair with timber being more readily available. The straw construction evolved into the style we see today with timber legs, seat and arm rests with the distinctive fanned straw back.
Thankfully the Orkney chair has not been lost, thanks to tourism to the islands and a handful of craftsmen keeping the tradition alive.
One individual stands out in particular ‘The Orkney furniture maker’ for his beautiful craftsmanship, not only traditional designs but also his own creations with a modern twist. So if you are looking for a chair as a fireside companion no other seems to be quite at home.
For antique chairs enquire to www.threegatesgallery.com
For an antique of the future look at www.orkneyfurniture.co.uk