Hunched over my laptop. That’s how I’ve spent the past year – like so many of us. And, I mean ‘hunched’. My posture is terrible. After too many weeks of lingering back pain, I decided to sort myself out. I don’t like contemporary office chairs, even though I know they are designed for the purpose, so my office chair is a rather more grand Georgian mahogany dining chair that I was given by a friend in lieu of helping him out with something.
Over time, the seat pad sank and became a pit because the straps underneath split and tore. Although our cat loved the ‘nest’ it created when I wasn’t working, I had to bolster the seat by stacking cushions on it – like the mattresses in Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Princess and the Pea‘! But still, the aches! And precarious ones at that. Enough was enough. So I called a local company, The Furniture Upcycler, who were advertising in our local florist. Antonia was marvellous from the word go.
Her first concern was for my body, and correct posture when working. She looked at me on a video call as I sat at my desk, and made notes. I’m a tall guy, with very long legs. Then we discussed the design of the seat pad itself. She suggested adding a whopping 10cm to the height with a thick pad to make it fit my body, but I was keen on retaining the original look of a Georgian dining chair. We needed a solution, so Antonia went off to work it out.
The next step was choosing some fabric. I wanted to have a little fun, and find something extravagant and luxurious. I’ve always loved Zoffany‘s designs, so found a 3 metre offcut of their wonderful 66% silk and 34% nylon ‘Landseer‘ fabric on eBay for a bargainous £40. The fabric changes colour from a deep green to silvery-grey depending on how the light hits it, and the raised and worn-effect velvet heraldic pattern with lions hits the spot. With a 59cm repeat, the pattern is really way too large for a seat pad, but Antonia said she’d centre it and make it look great.
And indeed she did – I’m over the moon! And, to solve the issue of comfort versus correctness, Antonia made me a pleasantly plump removeable cushion that attaches to the drop-in seat pad with buttons and loops. That way, when I want it to look right, it can, and when I want to use it for correct comfort, I can. Perfect!
Its looks raise a satisfied smile when I reach my desk with my morning coffee, and the comfort ensures the smile remains as I sit on it when working all day. I raised my laptop up on a Nulaxy positionable stand so that I sit entirely upright, and I can’t believe the difference it has all made.
And so to the chair itself. I’ve often wondered exactly how Georgian it really is. So I asked my friend and BBC Antiques Roadshow colleague Lennox Cato. If you want the right answer – ask an expert! He told me that it’s an 18th century Chippendale period mahogany dining chair, dating from around 1785. It’s based on Chippendale’s famous designs as illustrated in his globally influential book ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director‘, first published in 1754.
Sadly, there are no initials or numbers stamped into it anywhere, but the wonderfully carved and shaped top rail, intricately pierced back, and carved verticals more than make up for that. As Lennox said, even though the legs are plain, they wouldn’t be seen when the chair was pushed under a Georgian dining table – you’d get the full impact of the wonderfully carved back.
It may not be a specially designed office chair made for long periods in front of a laptop or computer, but I can’t bear those things. This is far more ‘me’, far more fun – and now far more practical. I wonder what salacious morsels of gossip it was party to at all those raucous Georgian dinner parties it was part of? If only my witterings online as I sit on it today were as interesting!