The Orkney Hooded Chair
A style of chair that goes back centuries. The iconic Orkney Hooded Chair was traditionally made from driftwood washed up from the sea. Timber in Orkney is scarce so islanders would use other materials to make furniture.
The earliest version of the chair was more like a low round stool covered with straw. From this it developed into a low chair by the addition of a straw back. The height of the back was originally around 2 feet high. From here the back of the chair became hooded – possibly to shelter from draughts. The warmth from the hearth would envelope the occupant of the seat keeping in the war. As well as an Orkney Hooded Chair it is also known as the Orkney Warming Chair.
The seat in early times remained round and covered with straw.
The design was taken forward by a native of one of Orkney’s more northerly islands who first made the chair with a square wooden seat, no straw covered this new seat. Timber as starting to be brought into Orkney and had become more available. Around this period ( late 18th early19th Century) the drawer would also have been added. This style has not changed that much to this day.
After 1890 the style became more standard, they were produced on a more commercial basis. Although these chairs were really just ‘one offs’ and each was unique.
This beautiful yet basic chair made by fishermen and farmers today can be seen in some of the richest houses of the world. An Orkney chair is part of the furniture collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Between 1910 – 1915 we see the first inset or cord type seats, replacing the solid wood ones. The style of the backs particularly in the outer isles were more rounded.
Good enough for a Queen
The Orkney Chair was a particular favourite of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Also Queen Victoria had one.