Thomas Jefferson’s chairs

This chair was probably made at Monticello – by Thomas Jefferson’s joiner and slave, John Hemings.  Whether TJ himself ever sat on it is up for discussion.

Armchair attributed to Thomas Jefferson's joinery at Monticello
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg

In the collection of Colonial Williamsburg, it is an example of a chair with less finesse than those made in large urban centers, but with a bit more flair than you might expect from the rural Virginia countryside.

The request from my friend and client (they often turn out to be both before a project is finished) was to make a set of dining chairs that echoed the look and feel of this chair, and yet were robust enough for daily use in a research center.  As with many pieces in constant use, the chairs not only had to be sturdy and solid, feeling as a natural extension of the original, but also had to have certain sitting characteristics.  For a dining chair and personal use, a chair has to be inviting and comfortable to sit in for long periods.  For a meeting chair, it has to be more upright and keep the person sitting in it attentive to the subject at hand.

For this chair, the use was both, so it had to be comfortable, but not too easy to sit in.  And it had to blend harmoniously with the other furniture in the room.

Thomas Jefferson Sidechairs
New TJ sidechairs, waiting for the elevator to go to their new home

I think it met both criterion.  And I loved making these stunning chairs.

TJ chairs in their new home

Contact me if you would like to work with me on a project like this.




One thought on “Thomas Jefferson’s chairs

  1. Great job on the chairs Richard. I had the opportunity to repair, conserve , and refinish the table. I also added a leaf, and raised the table by 3 inches for your chairs. There was a sideboard in the room that I also restored after the flood.



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