During the height of Hollywood's western craze, every little kid's dream was to be a cowboy or cowgirl, tearing up the dirt on a cattle ranch. This iconic imagery gave way to the ever-popular wagon wheel furniture that can be found in rustic apartments and themed wedding venues around the world. This country-western style of furniture, which often boasts its sustainability by using reclaimed wood, went hand in hand with a culture that enjoyed the great outdoors and activities like camping, hunting, and fishing. Yet, you don't have to be a mason jar-loving country kid to enjoy these pieces of functional art.
Vintage Wagon Wheel Furniture From Across the West
Wagon wheels literally carried wagonloads of people from the American east to the mid and far west as they uprooted their entire lives and attempted to make new lives for themselves. First made of steamed hardwoods, later reinforced with thin bands of steel, and even later with rubber, wagon wheels are one of those historic gadgets that have never completely lost their usefulness. You can find wagons of different shapes and sizes everywhere, and they're used still in professional racing competitions, as well as on modern farms and in going places where motorized vehicles cannot go.
Antique, Vintage, and Vintage-Inspired Wagon Wheel Furniture
Much of the vintage furniture featuring wagon wheels from the mid-century is inherently more valuable than contemporary pieces because many of these artworks incorporated wagon wheels from the late 19th century or earlier. Although it's less common to find antique furniture bearing a wagon wheel or two, it's not entirely uncommon, and these pieces can be rather valuable to serious furniture collectors. Of course, the most common type of wagon wheel furniture you can find is vintage-inspired pieces, which take modern construction methods and apply them to contemporary furniture in the style of historic pieces. These three types of wagon wheel furniture make up the current market's bulk.
Antique Wagon Wheel Furniture
Furniture that has been made using antique wagon wheels are traditionally crafted out of wood. The wood on the wagon wheel parts of the furniture should show pitting, digs, and scratches (aka, signs of age and markings associated with hand-crafted techniques). This type of furniture is more fragile and the wood might be drier to the touch and could be in need of oiling and buffing.
Vintage Wagon Wheel Furniture
Wagon wheel furniture from the mid-century will have some steel band reinforcement in the wheel. These designs, while rustic, have more attention to detail and are less chunky looking than antique examples. The wood should appear suppler and have a less battered appearance (if it's been taken care of properly).
Vintage-Inspired Wagon Wheel Furniture
Contemporary pieces are made by current manufacturers using modern methods and materials, though in the historic style of antique pieces. Keep in mind that these pieces aren't always crafted out of actual wood, and may not last as long as true historic furniture can when they're well taken care of.
Types of Furniture That Incorporates Wagon Wheels
Their rustic wooden construction allows wagon wheels to be transformed into multi-purposed pieces of interior design. Made for both inside and outside of your home, these pieces of western furniture and fixtures make for great low-cost alternatives to high-end retail products thanks to the fact that most of these pieces can be DIY'ed using a few tools you might have lying around the house and some reclaimed wagon wheels.
Benches and Sofas
When it comes to elongated seating arrangements, like benches and sofas, wagon wheels aren't often used for much more than providing the framework for the furniture's arms. This can be done with either full-sized wagon wheels or with wagon wheels that have been sliced in half; either way, they provide a more subtle approach to adding wagon wheels into your decor.
Chairs with wagon wheel integrations usually look the least like their original material. Thus, these chairs are often constructed with the backs, arms, and legs being crafted out of the wagon wheel's long spokes, and are created by completely deconstructing the wagon wheel itself and reconstructing it into something entirely new.
Generally, anyone who wants a wagon wheel table is going to get something that's in-your-face. Many of these tables take the wagon wheels in their entirety and cover them with glass, fill them with resin, or other similarly transparent material to make them flat enough to place dishes and dinners on.
In terms of lighting fixtures, the wagon wheel chandelier is one of the most popular pieces of wagon wheel furniture today. The large circles of the wagon wheel can be used without the spokes for a down-home, but ambiguous, appearance, or the entire wheel - spokes and all - can be included to make way for more candles or lights.
Garden Trellis and Decorative Objects
Admittedly, wagon wheels are at their best when they're incorporated into the outdoor landscape in some way. Whether this is through creating garden trellises for your favorite floral blooms or using them as decorative objects to line the stone walkway that runs from your backdoor to a seated area, these wooden wheels are most complimentary when they're placed back into the nature that they originally came from.
A more complicated project you can initiate is converting a few old wooden wagon wheels into fencing for your yard. You don't have to only use wagon wheels if that's too daunting of a task for you to take on or if they don't provide you with enough coverage from the outside world. Rather, these wheels can be tied or built into other wooden and metal fencing to bring a bit of character to the average fenced area.
Where to Look for Wagon Wheel Furniture
If you're on the hunt for some unique wagon wheel furniture to give a whole new meaning to the phrase "raised in a barn," you might try the following places:
- Cowboy Classics - This site carries vintage western furniture as well as new handcrafted western and lodge pieces. Once there, you can find furniture like mid-century maple tables that stands on two half wheels or a western-styled footstool made with wagon wheel sides and covered in green vinyl.
- Wild West Living - This store has a variety of western-style furniture, though they're almost entirely composed of modern materials. So, this business might not be the place for you if you're looking for an authentic antique or vintage piece.
- eBay- You can't go wrong with giving eBay a browse when it comes to vintage and antique furniture; you'll be able to find a lot of true vintage pieces that'll look right at home in your living room.
- Etsy - As always, Etsy has a wonderful selection of vintage furniture goods in various states of condition. Here you can find the raw materials you're looking for to bring your ideal wagon wheel piece to life or buy one that's already been made by the thousands of craftspeople selling their wares on the e-commerce website.
- Old Hickory Furniture - While Old Hickory Furniture does have a small selection of wagon wheel-inspired furniture, its pieces are sturdily crafted and made from genuine Tennessee hickory wood.
How to Add a Western Flare to Your Living Space
If you're fascinated by these old wagon wheels or inherited a piece from your Great Aunt that you just can't bear to part with, then the most important thing for you to consider is how it'll look best in your home. There's an endless number of ways to configure wagon wheel furniture in even the most industrial chic space that should assuage even the most staunch country-western deniers. Here are some ideas to spark your creative side:
- Make outdoor fixtures - For those older, broken chairs that aren't fit to sit at your kitchen table, you can use them as outdoor fixtures or areas to place your home garden.
- Line your walkway - Add a homey feeling to your backyard by staking small wagon wheels along the edges of your walkway or stone path.
- Hang a chandelier - Another quick way to make a country-western statement is to hang one of these full-sized wagon wheels above your fireplace or living room mantle.
- Make a picture frame - Nowadays, chicken wire and reclaimed wood has become one of the top choices for people aspiring to have a country chic home to display a collage of their family's favorite photographs; however, you can jump off of that bandwagon and use a wagon wheel, with its useful spokes, to hang your cherished memories with.
- Put together a holiday wreath - There's a wagon wheel for all seasons when you decorate one with holiday motifs and transform it into a unique holiday wreath.
Rock Your Furniture Like a Wagon Wheel
Though they're long gone, the Conestoga wagons of America's western expansion lives on in furniture bearing both vintage and newly inspired creations using their iconic wagon wheels. So, you can rock your furniture like a wagon wheel and find a space in your home for a beautiful vintage or modern piece.