Sleepy John Estes and his family made do with whatever furniture they could get. These three different chairs show the types that he might have had in his house.
The ladder-backed chair with the woven seat is a traditional style that is still popular today. The back is made from horizontal slats between two slightly flattened uprights. There are drips of white paint on the middle slat. The simple legs have rounded tops that extend above the horizontal pieces that form the edges of the seat. The seat is woven in a herringbone pattern with strips of cane or wood, and it sags slightly from years of use.
The tan vinyl chair is called a cantilever chair because the seat isn’t directly supported by legs in all four corners. It’s a mid-century modern design. The frame of the chair is made from tubular steel. It’s in a single loop, running from behind the backrest, bending under the seat, going to the ground, curving around underneath the chair, and then back up to the seat and the backrest on the other side. The vinyl on the seat is cracked, torn, and peeling back from the wood underneath.
The colorful vinyl chair has a tall back, aqua-colored vinyl on the sides, and light gray-colored vinyl in the middle with the cracked ice pattern that was popular in the 1950s. The seat of the chair has a separate cover, a vinyl-like material with a woven texture, and a whimsical pattern of village buildings and characters on a slate-gray background. This unusual pattern, the creases at the corner of the seat, and the way the material is attached underneath show that the seat covering was probably replaced.
With care and occasional mending, Sleepy John’s family would have been able to use chairs like these to eat at the table or rest on the front porch. In fact, in one picture, Sleepy John Estes sits with his guitar on a chair that looks like the ladder-backed chair here.