What Are Harlequin Chairs?

Thanks to the rarity of finding a good set of six or eight period antique dining chairs, it is often easier and much cheaper to make up a “harlequin” or “matched” set, incorporating two or more different designs.

Nowadays, an eclectic mix of styles is becoming more popular, as tastes move away from the formal dining sets of the past. Even among upholstery fabrics, fashion has moved away from colour co-ordination towards bolder contrasts.

As long as the chairs are a similar size and shape, they will complement each other – these two sets of four mahogany Chippendale-design diners, dating from about 1770, go well together. [Tip for translating auction catalogue “speak”: if they say Chippendale or George III “style”, they mean a late copy or reproduction; period pieces will be described as Chippendale-period or Chippendale-design]. They are the same quality, period and style – covering them in the same fabric also tie the look together.

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