The Henderson Boomerang Chair
The Hendersons are retiring. Without fanfare, a multitude of durable little mid-century chairs are slowly vacating offices across Canada and into the welcoming arms of smart collectors. The solid wood chairs were products of the Henderson Furniture Company located in St Lambert, Quebec, who opened for business in 1914. By the 1960s, the company had become one of the leading office and institutional furniture suppliers throughout Canada – even reaching into the US market.
Offering comfort, outstanding durability and forward style, these hard working little chairs became mainstays and a popular choice for both provincial and federal government offices across the country.
What makes them so collectible today is their unmistakable mid-century profile and, with smooth curvy lines and a boomerang base they fit right in with modern decor. Timeless design and comfort never go out of style - sit in one and you'll appreciate that these chairs were built with this in mind.
If you're lucky enough to snag one they're worth the effort to refinish. Most were upholstered in a functional, albeit, disenchanting naugahyde. I just refinished two of them and their transformation has been stunning. Sand away the years of duty and a beautiful wood chair emerges. I'm not certain what the wood is but I'll venture a guess it's walnut. Small nics and grime can be sanded out but if there's a mark or two you can't get rid of just remember that these chairs have history! I used quarter inch foam for the seat and backrest but you can go up to one inch foam if you want the extra padding. Using Miniwax Penetrating Stain in Gunstock 231 gave the chairs a teak-like appearance. The fabric design I selected is from my Mid-Century Modern collection called "Falling Leaves sm" but any one of the designs in this collection would pair perfectly with a Henderson chair. The fabric is a beautiful and durable upholstery-weight velveteen that looks and feels more like suede.
So, where does one find these chairs? Well, here's the good news...many have already made their way into private homes and are up for sale on used sites like Kijiji or Craigslist. Prices vary greatly on these sites so shop around. I've seen them listed anywhere from $20 to $295 depending on whether or not they've been restored. If you want to diy, government surplus warehouses are probably your best bet and sometimes you'll even see them being auctioned off in batches. Dig around and you might find them in several styles such as Half-back, full-back, swivel base or the double boomerang.
With a bit of effort you can own a beautiful piece of Canadian history. Because they were built for comfort they make wonderful dining or accent chairs. Give them the attention they deserve and they'll serve you for another 60 years.