All About Vintage Office Chairs

When it comes to furniture there is certainly something to be said for vintage pieces. They have been a staple in the kit of designers for decades and these pieces were made to last.

When designing a home office, as many people may be doing right now with most working from home or at the very least doing more from home, vintage office furniture, most notably vintage office chairs, are a great piece to include.

These chairs have the potential to make a space more comfortable, more stylish and to spark that feeling of interest that you may have been looking for.

What is Vintage?

What is Vintage?

The term vintage refers to any piece of furniture that is at least 20 years old, this means those great art deco chairs from the 60s that your grandma keeps in her den are certainly vintage.

Vintage pieces are not only made better than many of the cheaper furniture options that we see today, they hearken back to a day and age that was once the hippest, the best in terms of fashion, and where that piece was likely coveted by many.

Vintage office chairs bring interest to a space that might be otherwise boring, they can add style and class, and they can make a huge statement. So which vintage office chair is right for you?

Keep reading to find out more.

The History of Vintage Office Chairs

We have all seen those swivel office chairs that are more fun to spin around in than they are to look at or actually use. It is believed that one of the earliest known office chairs as it were or chairs with wheels was invented by Charles Darwin.

He attached wheels to his office chair to help make getting around his lab easier. The idea was adapted and it is rumored that Otto von Bismarck made the chair even more famous by offering the chairs for those in parliament to use while he was working there.

The chair has changed and adapted the first American office chair was created by Thomas E. Warren and was called the Centripetal Spring Armchair, a mouthful for sure.

Centripetal Spring Armchair
Centripetal Spring Armchair

The office chair as we know it today was first modernized by Frank Lloyd Wright. Yes you read that correctly, the same great American architect that built some of the most famous houses that the country has ever seen.

Frank Lloyd Wright Chair, Blake Wylie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

His prairie style was one of the most popular and the most iconic in terms of 20th century home design in the United States and we all love the open style that he created.

There is no real solid name or patent for the original office chair idea but there have certainly been many interpretations and ideas that have been used to popularize the office chair.

Types of Vintage Office Chairs

Today, there are many styles of ergonomic office chairs with high-tech mesh fabrics, a multitude of adjustability options, and fancy S-shape frame designs.

But, office chairs have been around for a long time, and there are some still great (and comfortable) vintage designs that have stood the test of time and are worth a look.

Executive Office Chairs

The executive chair is one of the most popular vintage designs and is a great chair design overall.

This chair is a large, arm chair style with a wide wheel base that is great for anyone that wants style and comfort.

Vintage Executive Office Chair

An executive style chair is going to have plenty of cushion for comfort, they are often covered in fantastic fabric or leather that is stylish and that gives it that great vintage style, and they may also have tassels and other embellishment in the form of a skirt almost around the bottom trim of the chair.

Vintage Library Style Chairs

Vintage library style chairs are another wonderful option. Library chairs are standard chairs that do have four legs and in most case the wheels are just on the bottom of the legs.

This type of chair is going to be comfortable, versatile and is also going to be a bit different than a typical office chair.

This would be a great chair if you want something that is a bit sturdier or that is going to be a great looking chair.

Solid Oak Chairs

Auckland Museum, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Solid oak chairs are another fun option when it comes to vintage office chairs. This is a wonderful chair that has great structure, great lines and that reminds you of those great old black and white detective movies.

This is a super versatile chair that is going to work with any office design. You can also customize it with pillows or with cushions that are your style or that you want to use to add color.

1970s Ergonomic Chairs

In the 1970s ergonomics was a big trend and ergonomic chairs are a great design as well.

Ergonomic chairs from the 1970s are fun, they are padded, they are upholstered with some fun patterns and some super fun designs. An ergonomic chair from the 1970 is going to be fun to add to your office space and super easy to choose.

You can also go for drafting chairs or more industrial style chairs. These are a bit barer and are less focused on embellishment and more on the bare minimum and making sure that the bones of the chair are sturdy, practical and utilitarian.

Learning More

Vintage office chairs are a fantastic design piece that can help elevate the style of your home office, make the space you are working in so much more unique and fun, and can help to add an element of style that you might not have even thought about. When evaluating a vintage office chair there are a few different things you should look for.

The first element is the style. You can tell when a piece of furniture is a vintage piece or a piece that is modern and is simply parading as a vintage chair.

Look at things like condition, the style and what possible period the chair comes from so that you can start to ferret out more information about the chair itself. Taking the time to look at the overall style can help to date the piece if you are not sure when it was created.

Another thing to look for is possible serial numbers or makers marks. If you look at the bottom of the chair and there is a serial number or a maker mark this can also help you date the piece and find out where it was manufactured.

You should also look at the materials that were used to make the chair as this can help to date the piece as well. Certain materials are more popular in some eras and some are less popular or are more obscure.

When it comes to figuring the value of your piece, it is always best to gather as much information as possible and to find out just what you need to be able to better put a value on your vintage find.

There are tons of great resources out there that can help you to find out more and really learn as much as possible about your vintage furniture pieces.

Additional Reading and Resources:

About Will

Will Ames is an author and editor for the old timey. With a BA in history and a passion for vintage items and retro inspired tech, Will has a passion for researching his favorite products, collectibles and stories from days gone by.