Morris Chair

Morris Chair
Recently constructed version of the Morris Chair

A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris's firm, Morris & Company from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866.[1]

The design features a seat with a reclining back and moderately high armrests, which give the chair an old-style appearance. The characteristic feature of a Morris chair is a hinged back, set between two un-upholstered arms, with the reclining angle adjusted through a row of pegs, holes or notches in each arm. The original Morris chair had dark stained woodwork, turned spindles and heavily decorated upholstery, in typical Victorian style.

The chair was widely copied after Morris' introduction, and is still manufactured. The appearance and style of upholstery is usually quite different to Morris', but the overall layout is constant. The best known examples are those first produced by Gustav Stickley[2] and then widely copied afterwards. These are in the American Craftsman idiom, rather than English Arts & Crafts styles. Woodwork is lightly finished and largely undecorated oak in rectangular sections. Upholstery comprises unframed cushions in brown leather, or green or brown fabric. As this style is by far the most common, the chair is often thought of as a Stickley design named in homage to Morris, rather than an original Morris piece. As with all Stickley, these chairs are keenly collected today and originals fetch several thousands of dollars.

The chair is mentioned prominently in the Marilyn Monroe cover of the Irving Berlin song "You'd Be Surprised" as follows:

"At a party
Or at a ball
I've got to admit
He's nothing at all
But in a Morris chair
You'd be surprised."

Additionally, the Morris chair is mentioned in another Irving Berlin song, "All By Myself", published in 1921, as well as in the song "My Honey's Lovin' Arms" (1922), by Joseph Meyer:

"A cozy Morris chair
Oh what a happy pair",

or, as Barbra Streisand sang in her recording of the song:

"A cozy Morris chair
What kind of chair is a Morris chair?".

It is mentioned also in the World War I patriotic song: "If he can fight like he can love, good night Germany" (words by Grant Clarke and Howard E. Rogrers, Music by George W. Meyer)

"..I know he'll be a Hero over there, 'Cause he's a bear in any morris chair..."

It is also mentioned in the Three Stooges short film, Rockin' thru the Rockies (release date March 8, 1940), when Curly claims, "I once shot a Morris chair out from under Sitting Bull."

The chair is a popular subject with amateur furniture makers, particularly in the USA.[3][4]

See also


  1. ^ Early upholstered version
  2. ^ "Original Gustav Stickley #369 chair, missing the rear cushion and showing the back frame.". Treadway Gallery. 
  3. ^ Bavaro & Mossman (1997). The Furniture of Gustav Stickley. Linden Publishing. ISBN 094193635X. 
  4. ^ In the Craftsman Style. Taunton Press. 2001. ISBN 1561583987. 

External links