A wing chair, also referred to as a wing back, consists of a chair that is usually fully upholstered in fabric or leather, and has "wings" reaching from the arms of the chair to the back. The wings typically join together in a 90-degree angle. Some are even wider. The original purpose of these wings was to protect those seated in the chairs from drafts commonly found in old, poorly insulated houses. Another use was to protect the delicate skin of ladies seated near a fireplace.
From England to New England
The earliest wing chairs noted historically are from the 1700s. One type of wooden unupholstered chair for use with cushions was made in New England during this time period, as well as two upholstered versions with wooden legs. A popular version came from England at the same time, and was likely the origin of the American variations.
Made in America
A kind of wing chair called American Colonies was designed in the mid-1700s and was first found in most of the New England states. A specific Rhode Island version was produced shortly after that.
The library wing chair came from England in the mid-1800s, and was the first type to be upholstered in leather rather than fabric. This style is still popular in libraries and even some offices in countries all around the world. The leather versions of wing chairs are typically more expensive than their fabric counterparts.
The French Wing Chair and the Queen Anne Wing Back Chair are probably the most common of all the wing chairs, and originated toward the end of the 18th century. Both of these versions were made a bit smaller than the rest, and were typically intended to be chairs for the ladies.
Twenty-first century wing chairs are diverse and detailed, but all retain the original design of the high back and wings. Some of the modern versions include the Josef Wingback, the Chelsea Chair, the Peekaboo Wing Chair, the Briar Chair, the Petite Wingback Chair, the Leaf Linen WIngback, and the Moroso Modern Wingback that costs almost $5,000.