What is the Morris Chair?

With clean lines and handcrafted design, Morris Chairs are sturdy, reliable, beautiful and widely loved.

Morris Chairs have come a long way since their “first recliner” status of the 1860’s. As they moved away from the frilly and fancy of their early Victorian design to the heavier, substantial style developed in the early 1900s, the Morris Chair has maintained its fan following as it serves as an iconic symbol of the American Arts & Crafts Movement.

Let’s take a look at why.

What is a Morris Chair?

The Morris Chair is the original recliner (more on its history below). Each has a few distinctive elements:

  • Both a seat and back cushion,
  • Moderately high exposed wooden armrests and sides
  • "Reclines" by moving pegs into holes or notches on the back of the chair

This charmingly low-tech characteristic feature of a Morris Chair must be adjusted manually to set the chair at the desired angle. There are no levers, springs or sensors. And besides the easily-replaced pegs, no moving parts to wear out or break.

Advertisements from the past stated that the reclinee was required to get a “minimum amount of healthy exercise” by getting out of the chair and going around the back to make adjustments. Whether or not that actually attracted people to the chair is anyone’s guess, but it’s refreshing to see its original design hasn’t changed. The sitter is still required to manually adjust the chair to their liking!

The chair is built of solid wood - often quarter sawn oak - and finished in warm stains, typically to match a cozy living room. The arms can be bowed, flat or bent. The sides are either slatted for that quintessential Mission-style look or solid panels. The thick cushions are typically covered in leather but can also be upholstered in woven fabric.

Morris Chair

History of the Morris Chair

The Morris Chair was first designed in the 1860s by Ephraim Colman, a carpenter in Sussex, England. The design and details were then passed on to Philip Webb, a founding member of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company. This group would later become the Morris & Company most are familiar with today.

The first Morris Chair was built around 1866 and was an instant success in Europe. A chair designed for comfort, the original had a Victorian influence with decorative spindles and wool upholstered cushions sewn into the chair seat.

The chair was updated and redesigned in the early 20th century in the United States by Gustav Stickley. The Morris Chair’s reimagined design reflected the mood of the country: Sturdy, reliable, predictable and unsophisticated. Made of clean lines and natural materials, the chair became a staple in Craftsman homes. And still is today!

Adding Morris Chairs to your home

It’s not hard to see why the chair is so popular. Even though it was redesigned with Gustav Stickley’s vision of the Craftsman in mind, the chair blends seamlessly with almost every style from Mission to Prairie to Modern and back to Victorian.

At Modern Bungalow, we offer a curated selection of Morris Chairs that are handcrafted to each customer’s specifications and made to last. Generation after generation.

Craftsman Living Room

Back to blog

Need inspiration?

Find your next treasure. Explore our curated inspirations for your home.

1 of 4