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Antique footstools come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes. They are a versatile piece of furniture that can fit in well in any décor from rustic to high Victorian, and best of all? They are often a very affordable way to add a touch of vintage charm to your home.
Footstools have been around almost as long as man has. Ancient Egyptians used wooden stools to help them access the high chairs that were popular for royalty and the Patricians. Once the person was seated the footstool allowed him to rest his feet comfortably rather than have them swinging in mid-air in an undignified manner.
Footstools remained crude wooden accessories until about the 1700s when furniture makers began covering them with carpet or fabric. They even made long "fender" stools which were placed in front of the fire so that a family could relax in the evening with feet propped up and warm. Small footstools were called "crickets" and meant as seating for children.
At the beginning of the 1800s upholstered stools became quite popular and came to be known as ottomans. The term was used because the ottoman was used to prop up the feet of someone in a wing chair, allowing them to recline somewhat. This position was associated with the Far East and the Ottoman Empire.
The Victorians decorated footstools with braid and tassels, embroidery, and other fancy embellishments. These are especially beautiful and valued by collectors today.
Decorating with Antique Footstools
Of course footstools can be used as footstools in front of your favorite chair but there are many more ways to utilize these affordable antiques in your home.
- A footstool can be used as next to a high bed as a step, a very Colonial look, or it can be used next to a low bed to hold reading material.
- A small, painted wooden stool can be used on a counter or tabletop as a display piece or even a cake plate.
- Use a Victorian footstool in the bathroom next to the tub to hold a basket of towels or soaps.
Because there are so many varieties of footstools the decorating possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Country Home magazine chose antique footstools as one of the top ten collectibles in 2008, and with good reason. These antiques are still very affordable and easy to find. There were many of them created and they did not get hard use the way that a dining room chair did.
You should be able to find the perfect footstool for your needs at any antique store, depending on what area of the country you live in. In the Southwest you are more likely to find a Victorian needlepoint stool than a Colonial Windsor style, for example, so if you are looking for a certain type you may need to either travel or shop online.
eBay, Ruby Lane, or Tias are always good places to start for online antique shopping. You should expect to pay anywhere from $25.00 for a very basic footstool to $500.00 and above for unique footstools in excellent condition.
If you are looking for a needlepoint Victorian footstool you should easily be able to find on for less than $100.00
What to Look For
Look for antique footstool furniture that doesn't have much wear. The legs should be sturdy. Look at the area underneath the stool for damage, loose joints, or signs that it might be a reproduction. If it says "Made in China" then you can be sure that it isn't an antique.
Sometimes the needlepoint on a Victorian stool will be damaged. If you know how to cross stitch or needlepoint then you can repair it quite easily. While a needlepoint that is merely faded should usually be left as is, one that is ripped, torn or unraveled should probably be replaced.
Likewise, a painted stool is usually best left as is. Most people find that crackled paint is charming and an original painted design should always be left intact. Using a gentle cleaner to remove years of grime may give the item an entirely updated look.
Recovering a Damaged Footstool
If you do find a stool with great "bones" but it needs to be recovered that isn't difficult at all. Almost anyone can do it with some simple supplies and instructions.
You will need:
- Upholstery fabric or needlepoint
- Heavy duty staple gun with staples
- Tape measure
- You will want to remove the fabric and batting. You may be able to salvage the batting if it isn't in bad condition but don't count on it.
- Measure the top of the stool. Add the length it would take for fabric to go down the sides and underneath; usually about 4-6 inches.
- Cut the fabric to fit the top of the stool PLUS add the 4-6 inches all the way around.
- Add several layers of batting to the top. Using a spray adhesive will help the batting stay in place. Just spray each layer to help them stick together.
- Lay the fabric on the floor, right side toward the floor.
- Place the stool (with the batting on it) upside down, centered on the fabric.
- Pull the fabric op and stable to the edge of the wood. Finish one side and then move to the opposite side.
- Keep the fabric pulled taut as you work.
- One all four sides are attached fold the corners smoothly and staple.
Enjoy your footstool.
Antique and vintage footstools can be a bit like the proverbial potato chip, you may not be able to stop at one. They are so readily available, beautiful, and fun to collect that you may find you have a houseful of them before you know it.