Furniture has always been one of the ways that people improved the comfort of their homes and also showed their socioeconomic status. Footstools may not be as popular a furniture item anymore, but many are still collected as antiques from simpler times. Essentially, footstools are short, backless stools that were for resting one's feet when sitting on a higher chair, thus their name. Seat heights for footstools can vary despite the fact that they are all shorter than regular chairs. Antique and vintage footstools came in many shapes and size, and often have trademark designs from the era they come from.
What is the History of the Footstool?
While the history of the footstool has been rather vague, many credit its invention to ancient Egypt. At the time, footstools were for ascending the signature tall chairs of the era. These short stools stayed in style for a long time, while functioning as a practical piece of furniture within the home or retail setting. The design of these stools changed over the eras, for example:
- In the 18th century, the footstools tended to be long and low on the ground, so that families can prop up their feet next to the fireplace together. These stools had a more common name in fender stools.
- During Victorian times, upholstered walnut stools that matched the sofa were popular.
- In more modern (post mid-century) eras, footstools often came attached to the sofa or could store away underneath them. Some stools were (and still are) placed under tables for better comfort when doing tasks like writing, drawing, and tailoring.
How Can You Identify the Time Period an Antique Footstool Came From?
A footstool comprises of a top seat area and the legs of a stool. The top area has used a variety of materials over the years, including wood, metal, fabric, faux leather, or upholstery, but this variety existed even within the same eras. So, a better way to identify the time period these antique stools are from is their feet.
- Chairs and stools from the 1600's had legs with feet designs like the ball, block, turnip, whorl (this was typically at the end of a cabriole leg) and toupie, and the popularity of some of these designs carried on into the 1800's as well. Later Chippendale designs also had a block foot design.
- The ball and claw design has been popular since the 1700's onward, and in the mid-1700's, the carved dolphin foot style also rose into popularity. Spade type feet were also popular in the 1700's.
- The 1800's saw the variety of designs increasing, popularizing designs like the cylindrical, monopodium, spade, and ball and claw feet.
Do note however that many antique foot stool designs transcended centuries, so use the information above just as a basic guideline.
What Were Antique Footstools Used For?
Footstools served mainly as footrests for adults and also makeshift seats for children. They also helped children place their feet in a comfortable position when they sit in a chair that is too tall for them. Taller footstools were sometimes also piano stools, or just a place for the pianist to rest their feet. Retail establishments also used footstools as bar stools (often these were wooden stools) and accompaniments to counter stools.