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372 N Winooski Ave
Burlington, VT, 05401


Sam's Wood Furniture specializes in custom finished and custom crafted real wood home furnishings. Many of our furniture is built by Amish master craftsmen, and proudly made in the USA. Sam's offers nationwide in-home delivery and we work with our customers to get them exactly what they want in their style and color!


Sam's Wood Furniture blog keeps you up-to-date on the latest trends, design and furniture buying tips!

Tips: What defines an heirloom quality chair?

Sarah Cowenhoven

If you're in the market for some new dining chairs (and you'd like them to last!), we've gathered some key pointers on what to look for when when it comes to the quality and construction of a good heirloom quality chair.

 Thumb-back chair. Built with cherry wood from Penns Creek Furniture.

Thumb-back chair. Built with cherry wood from Penns Creek Furniture.

Chairs built today should be made better than the chairs of the past.  Given the advancement of glues and finishes that are available today, it's pretty pathetic that we look to grandma's chairs with awe and envy or we scour the antique shops for a chair that will last. What?! No. Come on. The unfortunate reality is that most furniture stores sell mass-produced chairs that won't (and don't) last.

A true "heirloom quality" chair should be both beautiful and functional. It doesn't have to look like grandma's oak pressback (there's nothing wrong with pressbacks, if that's the look you want who am I to judge!) and today, you can find plenty of transitional and contemporary styles that are well constructed and surprisingly affordable.

 Our tips on choosing a well-built chair are below:

 Note the trimmed leg base here.

Note the trimmed leg base here.

  • An heirloom quality chair should be caringly crafted from select solid hardwoods.
  • An heirloom quality chair leg frames should spread gracefully for balance and durability.
  • The leg bases should be trimmed so the chair sits evenly on the floor.
  • Seats should be made of thick hardwood planks, edge glued, and contoured for your comfort.
  • If the seat is upholstered, the chair should allow you to remove and replace the cushion, and the builder should allow you to choose your own fabric (beyond what they offer).
  • An heirloom quality arm chair should feature a broad and flat arm rest with the proper amount of arm posts to ensure durability. The chair should support your full weight with years of getting in and out of them!
  • Look underneath the seat: if the chair has spindles, they should pass completely through the seat frame and be secured with wedges and adhesive. They should then be sanded flat and finished.
  • Chair joints should use adhesives that flow/adjust with the changing of the seasons while causing joints to be stronger than the wood itself.
  • An heirloom quality chair should be coated with a catalyzed varnish, enhancing the beauty of the wood while protecting it from typical household chemicals and water spillages.