I’ve never really liked the idea of modernising antiques. The concept of “shabby chic” has always seemed cheap and nasty, perhaps because it so often seems to be done with little skill, care or finesse. Clearly the quality of the piece should dictate the amount of care and skill employed in a restoration, but I accept that Reilly’s chairs are not always amongst the finest, having often been mass produced and for the masses. I suspect, however, that Reilly produced pieces of high quality that we do not recognise as his because they do not employ patented methods of construction or are of his registered designs. But even many of those that have been produced en masse are made of quality mahogany and interesting design and deserve to be preserved and given a new lease of life. Brown furniture is not popular these days so perhaps a thoughtful “modernisation” should be accepted as way of achieving this. Upcycling Reillys is perhaps to be encouraged?
So this is the context in which I encountered this chair on ebay.
“The chair has been re-webbed, has new foam and cushioning while the seat has been finished with a nice bold patterned red fabric. The solid wooden chair has been repainted in a coco chocolate chalk paint then lightly distressed. The seat base has been finished in a lovely gold paint. All the paint work has been sealed with varnish and should last a very long time.
The chair has some lovely lines, carvings and mouldings, hopefully the pictures can do the piece justice.” So wrote Alex Knott of his newly refurbished chair, and I think it could be a feature piece in a modern home. I am grateful to Alex for permission to reproduce his images. He did not know that it is an example of Reilly’s output but he has found the remains of a patent mark on the underside of the seat frame which confirms it.
On looking through Reilly’s registered designs I found an image on which this seems to be based. The design was registered on 17th February 1883.
Alex’s chair back is attached to a seat frame that I have described as “ 4 part frame – curved – nut exposed inside (4-C-NE)”, whereas the design drawing uses a conventional frame with over-stuffed seat. Nice work, Alex!