Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Mid-Century Chair Design

How to combine Mid-Century lifestyle and woodworking?
Nothing easier than that.

There are a lot of Mid-Century furniture examples which are worth to build and will fit into this idea.

I'll start with a chair.

I've mentioned a while ago, that I would like to do some seating units.
Not pretty clear what, but a lot of ideas in mind. Starting with the idea of somehow contemporary plank chairs. I've seen some during an exhibition which raised my interest. But the problem is, what to do with the built pieces? Nevertheless these plans are not buried.
How life goes - someday my wife asked me to have a look at a picture in an interior magazine she was reading. She showed me a spindle back mid-century chair which looked interesting.

Some of the construction details are reminiscent of Windsor chairs. Some others were already seen on plank chairs. And these spindles I've seen in Paul Sellers videos where he made a Shaker Settee.

Before I start such a project I always do some investigations. Also in this case.
If you will be interested in mid-century chairs there are, from my point of view, a few designs you have to know about.


Lucian Randolph Ercolani (8 May 1888 – 9 June 1976) was a furniture designer working in England.
In the late 1940s, Ercolani developed his range of Ercol furniture, which became a household name in post-war Britain.
In the late 1950s the Ercol Originals collection was launched. The collection was relaunched in 2003.
The Ercol originals are timeless pieces of classic designs. The furniture is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s

The focus of my interest is the "All Purpose Chair"
Unfortunately I didn't receive a permission to use pictures of the Ercol web site. Instead I'm only providing a link to the picture.

The design features strongly reminiscent of Windsor chairs.
5 back spindles hold a very narrow back rest. The legs are trough tenons. You have got some spindle rails between the legs. And a very special feature is, that the 3 back spindles in the middle will end in the lower rail between the legs. There is a cut out in the seat plank, so that the spindles can pass the seat.
I'm not sure if the legs will stick in battens below the seat. I would do so, if the seat is one plank. I think if it will be laminated this is not necessary.
In a catalogue from the late fifties I found the hint that the seats were adzed from solid wood.
The chairs are typically made from Elm for the seats and Beech for the legs.

Paul McCobb

Paul McCobb (5 June 1917 – 10 March 1969) was a modern furniture and industrial designer.
He had a brief career of designing some of the most unusual, enduring and coveted Mid-Century furniture.
His “Planner Group” line was among the best selling contemporary furniture lines of the 1950s and was in continuous production from 1949 until 1964.

The focus of my interest is the "#1531 Dining Chair" with spindle back.
Unlike the Ercol chair, this chair isn't made any longer. Fortunately I found some pictures which shows some of the construction details.

Side view

Top view

Through and wedged tenons

Blocks for the legs and laminated seat

The pictures were provided by Thanks for the support!

The chair has got a bowed back rest. 5 spindles will hold it. The legs are fixed with through tenons. The seat is laminated from single pieces. And instead of battens, blocks are used on the underside to fix the legs (I think their purpose is to beef up the plank so that the legs can't break out). 


This Danish manufacturer was founded in 1910 in the village of Farstrup (DK).
Farstrup classic furniture are characterised by simple design and everyday utility.
Farstrup Classic is a relaunched version of the stick back chair series manufactured by Farstrup Møbler A/S back in the 1960s.

The chair I'm interested in is the model "Classic Stick Back 216".
Again, I didn't receive an answer from Farstrup regarding the usage of their picture. So I'm providing the link.
The design is similar to both others. Nevertheless there are some differences. It seems to be the simplest construction of the three models. Stick legs, stick back and a narrow back rest with only a light bow.
From their actual catalog you can read that the legs can be mounted without tools. I guess that means they are screwed or just put in.

Vintage label

I have found a picture of a label glued to the underside of a vintage model 226.
This label says that you have to take care that the legs are firmly fastened. The German translation says pretty clearly that you have to ensure that the legs are screwed in tight. What underpins my theory.

There are 6 back sticks instead of 5. But that's it pretty much.
Nowadays the Farstrup chairs are made out of Beech.

For me the Farstrup is the one with the most pleasant look. I like the very straight lines and the back rest is the coolest from my point of view.
Nevertheless I like some of construction details of the other chairs. For example the wedged trough tenons of the McCobb chair are looking great and I think they will provide strength.
And the Ercol chair has got the nice feature, that some of the back spindles are jointed to the rail between the back legs. Additionally it is so Windsor, that it should be easy to adopt the techniques of Windsor chair making.

What's Next

I hope you enjoyed my road trip about Mid-Century spindle back chairs. I'm quite sure this overview is not complete or perfect. But I haven't got the claim to write a historical correct overview.
I just wanted to find out who were the major designers and manufactures of these chairs and style.
There are some other results, which I will keep for a future post.
Anyway, the construction methods are pretty similar and the investigation was very helpful to understand these.
I will dig into this topic more in the future. Maybe I will find a vintage model in the next flea market season.

Time that the new workbench gets ready, so that I can start with the mock up of my Mid-Century Stick Back Chair.

Stay tuned!


  1. Replies
    1. Hello Samia,
      thanks for the kind words. Glad that you like it.

      Best regards,