What is the history behind Barley Twist furniture?

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I stumbled upon this beautiful Barley Twist desk and chair at an Estate Sales. I do not know anything about it. I only know that I HAD to have it.
I had never heard of Barley Twist and have done a lot of research online but nothing to help me tell the age of the piece. Almost everything website I found just copied the previous website, and so on.
There are no visible markings under the desk or behind drawers, etc.
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Be sure to check out my (mini) blog at nanasyellowhouse.com
q what is the history behind barley twist, furniture id, painted furniture
q what is the history behind barley twist, furniture id, painted furniture
q what is the history behind barley twist, furniture id, painted furniture
q what is the history behind barley twist, furniture id, painted furniture
  16 answers
  • Jean Myles Jean Myles on Feb 15, 2016
    Hi Bonnie I don't have any info for you. I have a tall end table and the legs look like your table and chair's. I hope someone has some info for you I hope you don't mind. I will be watching. Never even thought they might have a name for that style. I only know that the table I have was my hubbys grand parents before my hubby inherited it. I hope someone can give you lots of info about them. Fingers XXXX

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    • Jimmie Southerland Jimmie Southerland on Sep 16, 2017
      I have the Table with drop leaf, 4 chairs, 2 captain's chairs and a buffet that match! We are relocating, are you interested in buying them? There is a brass tag on the bottom saying Pioneer Furniture Company, Liverpool

  • Duv310660 Duv310660 on Feb 16, 2016
    My spotty knowledge is that it was popularized in Elizabethan times and is typically English in origin (unless copied/reproduced)

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Feb 16, 2016
    I don't know much about this except it is a "style". The older pieces were hand carved (yours looks like it might be an old piece...the newer stuff looks smoother and more polished). I would be very careful not to paint or do much more than just clean this up and polish it with dark Old English oil until I found out more about it...maybe recover seat of chair to liven it up a little. Why? Because it appears this furniture is rather expensive! Yours appears to be in excellent shape. A good wipe down and polish will do wonders for it. You might have a set worth thousands there.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 16, 2016
      @Jeanette S Thank you so much! I think you are absolutely right! I do not plan to do a thing to it... lol I just love all of its "character". It does have a chunk missing out of on of the boards on top but I think it adds to the charm. I will try to keep everyone posted if I ever get it appraised. I got it at (what I think) a very good price.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 16, 2016
      @Trudy Connor Thanks, Trudy! I have read these 2 blogs; they basically say the same thing without really answering my question. I guess I am really trying to "date" the piece and am a little confused by the dove tail drawers, etc. The piece seems older (almost handmade/primitive) but the drawers have 4 dovetails instead of 3; however they do not fit perfectly together. The top is slats of wood (not veneer). All signs indicate a very old piece in really good shape but I just do not know for sure. Thanks again for your help!

  • Barbara Barbara on Feb 16, 2016
    I agree with Jeanette, your piece looks quite old and more rustic than the reproductions I've seen. I'd have it appraised as is by a reputable antique appraiser (not a dealer) before you do anything to it. Changing the patina, painting and or/refinishing antique furniture severely damages the value.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 16, 2016
      @Barbara Thanks for your input. I am a purest when it comes to furniture. I have painted newer (cheaply made) pieces but I would never touch this jewel. I am so excited about its charm and think the nicks and cuts give it "character". I will try to keep you posted if I get an appraisal. I think I got a really good deal on it :)

  • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 16, 2016
    Thanks, Trudy! I have read these 2 blogs; they basically say the same thing without really answering my question. I guess I am really trying to "date" the piece and am a little confused by the dove tail drawers, etc. The piece seems older (almost handmade/primitive) but the drawers have 4 dovetails instead of 3; however they do not fit perfectly together. The top is slats of wood (not veneer). All signs indicate a very old piece in really good shape but I just do not know for sure. Thanks again for your help!

  • Barbara Barbara on Feb 17, 2016
    I'm so glad there are still purists like myself who think the wood grain with it's nicks and dents add charm and don't feel the need to disguise them with the current trends. I too paint and 'decorate' inexpensively constructed furniture, but my grandmothers hard rock maple chest shows every move, every bump and endears itself to me more each day as it houses, with cedar lining intact, my grandfathers naval uniform from WW2. I'd be interested to hear what you find out if you do obtain an appraisal, The Barley Twist is a favorite of mine.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 17, 2016
      @Barbara Thank you so much for sharing your story/love of the "old stuff". I have see so many pieces that have been painted and distressed using an electric sander; the wood/veneer was so damaged it would be extremely difficult and expensive to restore. I know it is the trend but the true greats always come back in style and you can never get those piece back.

  • Leslie Lazzarini Leslie Lazzarini on Feb 17, 2016
    I know very little about Barley Twist furniture but I bought a bedroom set off Craig's list one day and could tell it was the two pieces were sturdy and solid but couldn't find any brand names on it until I started refinishing them. Once I got all the drawers out and was sanding the face of one of the dressers, something caught my eye inside and under the cabinet top! I'll be darned, name brand, name of piece, number etc. got online and found that they were much older than I had originally thought! I also bought a solid oak table off Craig's List and even though I couldn't find a maker at the time, when I got it home and prepped it for refinishing, I found the makers mark under the lip of one of the leaves stashed inside the table. So look carefully, EVERYWHERE, you'll be surprised at what you may have missed on your first pass! Good luck, it's a very pretty piece even if you can't find more info!

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    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 24, 2016
      @Leslie Lazzarini Thank you! I am checking out the sites you mentioned an will try to take more pictures of some of the unique details... that may also help with identification and appraisal.

  • Sandra Sandra on Feb 19, 2016
    I hope you don't refinish this before finding out everything you can about it. It's quite a piece. I think you can send pictures to Antique Roadshow and they can get some information to you. Go to their website and check that out. IF you find a "mark" on it take a picture and send with the photos. I see them show furniture without marks but they seem to be able to figure out who made the pieces they show on the program. I sure hope you get your information. good luck. It's a great piece.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Feb 19, 2016
      @Sandra Thank you so much for the feedback! I do not plan to refinish it. It has been painted at least once before as I can see the difference in colors and some drip marks around the drawers. I finally found a mark on the chair but have not taken a picture of it yet; a small 6 with a larger VII or V11. I was so excited to find the mark even though I haven't found one on the desk yet. I did find some interesting features (to me); things I have never seen in furniture so I plan to take photos of those features too and send them on to every website I can find. lol Thanks again!

  • Nancy Nancy on Feb 28, 2016
    see christiandaviesantiques.co.uk, they explain the origin and date it. in America this was common from 1850-early 1900. Also reproduced at this time. your piece can be dated by a local antique dealer. I have lived in many states and am able to find one where I go. If the store does not know they usually give me a name of someone they know. Also antique refinishers in your area ( not to refinish but to date) they love to talk about things and are great for information. I inherited a piece so know when it was from, 1880's. good luck

  • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Sep 28, 2017
    Hi Jimmie, I am not in the market right now to buy anything new. I wish you good luck on your move, though.

  • Ebbjdl Ebbjdl on Sep 28, 2017
    Start by calling an antique dealer, and ask them what the charge is to come out to your house. Next Don't Do Anything To This Piece of Furniture, don't dust it or wax it or anything. EJL

  • Emily Emily on Sep 28, 2017
    Since you bought it at an estate sale I doubt that it would be older or worth more than you paid for it. It is very attractive and I love estate sales (going to one tomorrow) I certainly doubt it is Elizabethan or anything approaching real age. If an estate sale person is not too knowledgable to begin with they will be in short time as their customers will educate them!

    • Josh Ellis Josh Ellis on Jul 17, 2018

      I bought this furniture at an estate sale. Just because it comes from an estate sale doesn't mean it's not old and valuable.

  • Garrison Traver Garrison Traver on Aug 07, 2018

    The desk is American Arts & Crafts/Mission OAK 1920-1925, The Stickley Bros Furniture Company used this design towards the end of the Mission Oak period.


    The chair is English Barley Twist OAK kitchen chair , same era. They were sold with matching Draw Leaf Tables. English chairs have the pop out seats.


    Barley Twist has been incorporated in many styles for hundreds of year.


    The table had cane inserts in the sides where you see the slots.


    They would look so much better refinished than painted brown. You will probably find that they strip really easily although there is a good chance that the top is really darkened from being exposed to moisture which caused all that splitting.


    Garrison Traver, Sundance Antiques, Walnut Creek, Ca.

    • Bonnie Shirley Coates Bonnie Shirley Coates on Aug 08, 2018

      Thank you so much! This helps a lot. I may tackle the referb at some point but since it is my personal piece, it will probably have to wait. (Cobbler's children all need shoes).


      I would love to see it brought back to its former glory. I suspected the cane was missing on the sides but I think I can replace that too without too much hearburn.


      And yes, the chair seat pops out. I have noticed a lot of cool design features since I started buying old furniture. Some pieces are engineered in such a way that it is amazing they were built so long ago.


      Thanks again for your helpful response.

      Bonnie

  • Tina Miles Tina Miles on Oct 23, 2019

    i have been researching this type of furniture for a customer to be specific a 17th century barley gate leg dining table or pub table, the first ones from the georgian and jacobian era , usually oak or walnut some are chesnut, most are made in england although some were produced in france, in the 1800s they became popular again , and in the early 1900s they were produced in america. then in the 1950s had a revival the ones in the early 1900s and 1950s they used machinery to produce the barley spindles, so if you have one of these pieces check the type of hardware used and whether the piece is put together with nails or pegs. the value varies.