Vintage Estate Sale Swan Chair Reveal

January 14, 2024

As a self-professed chair addict I'm more than thrilled to be sharing -- wait for it -- a thrifted, vintage swan Regency chair I picked up at an estate sale. It's gorgeous, with great bones and a colorful history. And while it was purchased "as is," I still believe it was a steal. Because who doesn't love a piece of gorgeous fixer-upper furniture?

gilded carved swan on chair arm

Have you ever heard of a swan chair? I hadn't! So what is a vintage swan chair, anyway?


I subscribe to a Chicago-based estate sale company's periodic emails that tell me when they're going to be holding an estate sale in my geographic area. Usually I look at the photos and say, "Eh." This time I was like "Whaaaat?" This particular home had SO many pieces of high-end furniture my head was spinning. So I made a wish list and prepared to check it out in person the next day.

My husband was kind enough to go with me and help me on the hunt. Unfortunately, my intuition was correct -- there was beautiful furniture all right, but it was all grossly overpriced.

Ironically, the thing that initially caught my eye and got me to go to the sale in the first place turned out not to be what I thought it was. So that was a bust. But we continued to look around anyway.

estate sale furniture and framed wall art

That's when I came across this vintage double caned barrel back swan chair (on the right) with an "as is" price of $35.00. (Photo courtesy of the estate sale company.) I hadn't even given it a second look when I initially looked over the furniture inventory photo. 

damaged silk cushion cover down filling

Had the down-filled silk cushion cover seen better days? Well, yes. 

broken cane seating

Was the cane seat section destroyed? Um, yes again. But why should that stop me?

vintage Regency style swan chair double cane barrel seat

Regardless of the problematic state of the seat and cushion, I was ecstatic when I saw the price tag. While $400 was out of the question for a buffet (and they had a few of those), $35.00 for an "as is" chair was just perfect for me! 

My husband and I could be seen flipping the chair over and discussing, in whispered tones, potential ways to fix the seat without actually re-caning it. He said he was in. It only took a few short moments to agree that we were taking this baby home.  

And trust me when I say this chair has heft. It is one solid piece of furniture! 

Vintage Swan Carved Double Cane Regency Style Chair

Once I got it home I started doing some digging and found out some useful information: 

1. The exact same vintage chair sold on Etsy for $625 (!) -- granted, it was in better condition, and 

2. This is an actual rock star chair! From a historical standpoint, that is. Call me a geek when it comes to learning the history of my finds from out in the wild. While I couldn't find an actual history of the swan chair (and not for lack of trying) I did pick up a few historical bits and pieces that I do think apply to this beauty.

From what I can gather, this style of swan chair possibly originated in Russia or the Baltics in the late 1700's, inspired by Russian royalty. The shape of the chairs can differ, but the carved swans on the arms, and the gilding, are common denominators. 

Oh, and did I tell you there's gilding? Since it looks exactly like the sold chair I found on Etsy, I'm going to assume that it, too, is from somewhere between the 1950's and 2000.

green Arne Jacobsen chair

NOTE: When I did a Google search for "swan chair" and "vintage swan chair" I didn't get my chair. I got this one, a chair that was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958. It's the epitome of modern and couldn't be further from the vintage gilded swan chair that I have fallen in love with. So don't be fooled. Enough said.


And trust me, all the gilded details and carvings are absolutely gorgeous:

gold swan carved into chair arm

Just look at that beautiful, mysterious swan.

back of Regency vintage caned barrel chair

Despite the horrendous condition of the caning on the seat, the rest of the caning -- like the back of the chair as seen here -- was in great shape. Since it (the back) and the sides were double caned, those areas are super sturdy.

carved floral motif front of swan chair

carved floral motif on back of caned chair

gilded detailed carvings top of chair back

ripped caning chair seat gilded swan arm

Even the carvings beneath the swan, on the top of the front legs, is quite intricate.

carved gilded round turned chair leg

The front of the chair has two round turned legs with gilding.

square turned chair leg

While the back of the chair has two square turned legs.

I'm torn as to how I want to refurbish it. As I'm not a dark wood furniture person, some sort of "lightening up" is in order. While white (my favorite furniture color) may be a bit too stark for this particular chair, maybe a cream color could be a nice compromise? 

French farmhouse living room Bergere chairs floating shelves

I was inspired by my Thrifted Vintage Louis XV French Bergere Chairs. I love their cream colored silk upholstery and creamy overall paint color. The chairs are showcased in the above photo as part of my French-inspired shutter sconce DIY project final reveal.

I'm thinking I'd like to update my swan chair to coordinate with these beauties, or maybe even with the shutter sconce. The gilding will remain intact, of course! I can't wait to show you the outcome of my swan chair project!

Well, that's it for today, friends! 
I hope you enjoyed reading about my
Vintage Estate Sale Swan Chair Reveal
 and that I've inspired you in some way. 
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gilded carved swan on chair arm

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Leave a Comment!

Carol said...

A beautiful chair!

My thrift store addiction said...

What a great find--loving the intricate details and can't wait to see your transformation!

Anonymous said...

Probably 40 plus years ago, I remember my folks replacing the ruined caning in a chair seat with a piece of THICK cardboard embossed with a pretty design and finished to look like leather. You used upholstery tacks to nail it in place. I bet a small, family hardware store still has something like them stashed in a dark corner or you might find something on line. I inherited 2 "fireside" chairs" from my late mother-in-law with the same dark wood; I had them reupholstered but left the wood dark and find that I love the wood grain more than a painted finish. Swans are my totem animal and I love them on anything! Kathy A

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