Victorian Wicker Highchair Restoration

I’ve been going through some of the thousands of hard-copy antique wicker furniture pictures I have in photo storage boxes to share with you here on the blog.

Today’s subject is a real cutie from the 1890s, it’s an entirely woven Victorian reed wicker highchair with a food tray for me to restore and bring back to its former glory.

Victorian wicker highchair before repairs

This reed wicker highchair has a wooden tray that can be flipped over to the back when you take the child out of the seat.

Frequently the trays were either lost or damaged beyond repair, so the owner was very happy that this tray was still attached and in good condition.

When I first saw the piece, I immediately thought there must be a close-woven cane webbing seat under that plywood replacement board. And I was correct, so the replacement sheet cane was also close-woven (meaning no holes in the pattern)!

Both woven arms were damaged beyond saving and there were lots of areas on the legs and center bracing that needed to be wrapped again.

Luckily, the actual fancy back area was pretty much intact, I only had to replace a few strands of rattan reed there, nothing major.

Peters repairing Victorian wicker highchair

Here I am working on one of the armrests, getting ready to weave it in from scratch.

First, you have to glue in the spokes, then weave the remaining armrest areas and finish with a woven braid made from the spoke ends.

The close-woven (meaning without the holes) cane webbing sheet is wet and ready to install. See it lying on the table below the highchair?

wicker shop zumbro falls mn 1994
Wicker shop in Zumbro Falls, MN 1994

I really loved working there in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota in my main street wicker repair shop doing business there for eleven years.

I had all my retail supplies hung up on the pegboard wall in the retail area and also on the wall shelving.

WickerWoman wicker shop 1992

Then on the other pegboard wall behind me, I hung all the cane and basket supplies I was currently using.

OMG, don’t I look young with that dark, curly hair? Where did all my current gray hair come from anyway?

Fancy Victorian wicker highchair restored by The Wicker Woman-Cathryn Peters

Well, here’s the final reveal, isn’t this little fancy Victorian wicker highchair glorious?

I took this picture before the customer came to pick it up and before they applied the final treatment of either stain and varnish or paint.

You can see from the pictures that the repairs I made to this wicker highchair are a bite brighter white than the original rattan reed.

I replaced a few strands in the back, mainly along the top where it curved over, both arms were totally rewrapped and armrests entirely rewoven, replaced two new curlicue embellishments, replaced rattan loops under arms, replaced the close-woven pressed cane seat, all legs were rewrapped, some from top to bottom, and brass leg caps polished (although you can’t tell from the photo).

I can’t remember if the client was going to stain and varnish this highchair or paint this beauty white. But either way, it would be beautiful.

However, if they stained and varnished, the reed wicker highchair would be more valuable than a painted version.

The reasoning is that white wicker furniture from the Victorian era is relatively common but stained and varnished pieces are rare.

What finish choice would you make if this reed wicker piece was yours? Paint or stain and varnish?

wicker braid separator graphic

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