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Colonial Icon - The Planter's Chair

Photo Credit: Planter's chair at Nisala Arana Hotel Sri Lanka        


The Planter’s chair is synonymous with the colonial age and look. A bygone era, evoking images of gin and tonics on the veranda and a glamourous tropical lifestyle.
In India’s extreme heat men were inclined to rest by resting their legs on a raised surface using footstool or tables for this purpose. However, by the mid nineteenth century this need was more conveniently satisfied by the invention of what has become known as the planter’s chair – a low easy chair with an inclined seat and arms that extend out into a leg rest. It is believed it is named after the planters who owned the tea and sugar-cane plantation; however, the precise origin is rather ambiguous.

Easy Chair - The Past Perfect Collection

‘The Morning Shave’ – from a series of postcards. Credit: Higginbotham and Company

Colonial Icon - The Planter’s Chair - The Past Perfect Collection


Among the earliest depictions of the chair is found in ‘The Early repast’ – 1851, painted by the British artist Alexander W Phillips. One of 4 canvasses on the subject of boar hunting, which was a popular activity for British officers in India during this time.

They were also included in the Army and Navy catalogue of 1907 under Barrack and Camp Equipment. In it they suggest the chairs were one of a range of stock models exported to British colonies around the world. Army and Navy advertised 2 varieties of the form – the’ Indian chair’ which has a solid teak frame and caned seat and back and the ‘Watherston’ chair, which is made from ash and has a green canvass back and seat.



Like all good designs, form and function work together perfectly and in total harmony.
The low reclining chair has a back and seat caned in one continuous section. The cane work allows the air to flow freely through resulting in a cooling effect - essential for life in the hot and steamy tropical weather. Each arm is composed of a flat plank with a rounded end, joined with a flat headed dowel or sometimes an ornamental brass pin, to a nearly identical plank that rotates out, from below into a footrest, forming a platform to rest one’s legs upon.

These flat arms along with the sloping back are the distinguishing features of the planter’s chair.


The Colonial Look - Villa Windu Asri


Initially planter’s chairs were used exclusively by the male dominated environments of the plantations and camps. But by the late nineteenth century they became firmly established as a prerequisite of every British colonial household principally for use on the veranda. Today it is a classic - the epitome of stylish colonial design. Perfect for those who are seeking the elegant colonial interior look.

We are always on the look out for these delightful chairs to add to our colonial furniture collection and have some great examples of them in our store and on our website.View our selection of colonial chairs here.

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Ref: Furniture From British India and Ceylon – Amin Jaffer

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