Saving an Early Morris Chair

Q #1 – I just got a very crusty, but original finish L. & J. Stickley early Onandaga Shop #768 Morris chair. I have been after this chair for close to 30 years and the opportunity presented itself last week and I took it. It was part of the original furnishings of a hunting lodge in Virginia and it remained in the same building until the property was sold in the late eighties. A friend bought the chair along with a #788 even arm settle for $100, and the seller thought he was crazy. I have known of the pair since 1979 and patiently waited since then to get it. A long but worthwhile wait!

Problem is the cushions are too far gone to use (the cat won’t even jump on them!). I want the new ones to be as close to original as possible. Any suggestions?

A – Congratulations! Patience is a virtue. First, do your research. If you look in the reprint catalog “Early L. & J.G. Stickley Furniture,” you will see that your chair originally had loose fill cushions with laced seams. Also, go through online Arts and Crafts auction house catalogs until you find a picture of an original laced-seam cushion. Take both to an upholsterer experienced with leather so there is no question about how it should look. And while various shades of brown were most common, you could select a hide dyed an Arts and Crafts green or russet.

Q #2 – What would you suggest I try first to gently clean this chair that has sat quietly in an old hunting lodge for the last 75 or so years? I know the last owner waxed it once and then put it on the porch, and that was close to ten years ago.

A – I would carefully remove the old wax with a soft cloth and mineral spirits, testing it first on the inside of a rear leg to make sure it does not soften the old finish. I would then apply a fresh coat of a quality paste wax and nothing else — no tung oil, no varnish, no lacquer, no shellac!

Note: For additional information on Arts and Crafts leather, see a recent column I wrote on this subject by clicking on Archives here.

Top Photo: A later L. & J. G. Stickley armchair similar to their earlier #768 Morris chair; the green cushions are new.

Bottom Photo: A laced cushion. Courtesy of Treadway Gallery.