The antique stool may be the oldest form of furniture, simply because its need and basic form were simple and universal. Until the 1600s, seating with backs and arms were rare, being limited to authority figures including the head of the house. Even in the 1600s, there were numerous stools and by all indications, these were used by members of the house with enough importance to sit at formal meals. Most of the stools that can be found were made from the 1600s, as earlier versions did not survive. Those that do are rare and valuable. The most common type is the joined stool, usually an oak stool with a carved decoration that has been made with mortise-and-tenon joints that are secured by pegs. The ones that were made well by the expert joiner using high-quality timber are more likely to have survived. The everyday ordinary stools will long since have fallen apart. They likely ended up in the fireplace. By extending the length of the joined stool, you created a bench, occasionally made with drawers or other compartments. Originally, a cushion would have been used to soften an extended sitting, but during the 1600s, there was such a demand for secure comfort that padding was added to the design.
Later stools tended to follow the current trends, and this caused the shapes to change. During the 1800s, because of machines, the carvings and forms became more elaborate. As the 1800s advanced, even more comfortable stools were created. Common English versions of the stool are about 2 feet high with a plank-shaped top and a carved moulding around the edge of the seat. Watch for damaged seats that may have been replaced and legs cut shorter because of wear. During the 20th century, many copies of joined stools were made, so be careful of any item that claims to be much older than it really is. An antique stool has multiple uses and needs, so you can often find many kinds, some made especially for children, and others for professions that required detailed work and critical body movement, such as watchmaker and chemist. The most common in this category is the piano stool, which includes round platforms that can be raised and lowered. High quality antique stools can range in price from $1000 - $5000 U.S. dollars.
Be aware of more modern furniture that is no longer made, but memorable of its decade or its function. This can include swivel bar stools and restaurant counter stools, the ones where the oldtimers used to listen to the jukeboxes at the five-and-dime. You never know what you are going to encounter sitting in a dusty corner of your local antique store, that may have a value beyond the expected.
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