Articles At A Glance
Old Children's Furniture Decorative & Functional
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, July 2008
For many years adults have been buying up not only antique children’s furniture but examples from Arts and Crafts, Modern and even post modern 60s, 70s. They have discovered new uses for them as decorative and functional accessories. You may be surprised to learn that some of the 19th century, one-of-a-kind pieces are less expensive than 20th century examples. For instance modern movement children’s furniture designed by Charles Eames can be costly, priced sometimes at over $1,000.
What makes children’s furniture so popular is the versatility. Since pieces were made for every room, from kitchen to bedroom the children’s pieces can mix and match with adult furnishings. Small decorative chairs can be hung on the wall. Cradles can be used to display antique linens.
Children’s furniture shouldn’t be confused with miniatures. It was made to be used by children, to sit on, eat at or put toys into. The term “miniatures” describes several sizes ranging dolls’ furniture, dollhouse furniture and scale furniture. Unlike miniatures, children’s furniture prices have been on the low side, till recently. At the November 24/.25 Garth’s auction a child’s Sheraton chest of drawers sold over estimate for $1,207.50. A cradle with original paint fetched a modest $460.
Historically chairs, stools and cradles made for children can date as early as 15th century Europe. Very rare are examples of American Colonial pieces. Those in museums include Carver-type chairs. 18th century wing chairs and banister back chairs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an unusual chair-table and carved chest dating to
the 17th century.
Cradles, handed down in families, are varied in designs and could almost be collected as a category. 19th century examples still come to auction with prices depending on quality of design and detail. Cradles and other children’s furniture followed the furniture fashions of the period.
Hence there are Windsor cradles with turned-spindle hoods and Pennsylvania Dutch styles decorated with typical painted motifs that include hex signs and hearts. The same holds true for chairs. Considered choice would be a painted Hitchcock-type child’s chair, made in the 19th century.
In the early 19th century there were many American chair makers who also made children’s chairs. By the 1840s Joseph Meeks & Sons, New York and John Hall of Philadelphia were making a wide variety of mahogany children’s furniture. Near the end of the 19th century, when folding chairs with carpeting upholstery became fashionable they were also made in children’s sizes.
CLUES: Reproductions of Pennsylvania Dutch and Colonial cradles can plague collectors. Apply the same principles you would to adult furniture: construction, signs of age and new paint or artificial aging.
Ice cream parlor sets, popular in the early 20th century were heavily reproduced in the 1970s. The authentic pieces had a heavy wire bent frame. The wood seats were framed in copper. Repros have pressed wood seats with white metal frames.
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