Treasure: Horn chair handcrafted by grandfather classic

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Throughout history, hunting lodges and rustic retreats have featured chairs made from horn. Sally Honkanen of St. Clair Shores recently brought in a piece she inherited that was part of that long tradition.

“I have an interesting and wonderful horn chair,” she wrote to the column, asking for information. “My maternal grandfather came to Detroit in 1884 (a 19-year-old), started working” and got married, she said. “The marriage brought forth six children… Grandpa Brey had a shop on Gratiot making wheels for Detroit – the first wheels for Sander’s trucks. I have my mother’s hope chest, which he made. He also crafted this wonderfully comfortable horn chair. Grandpa made each of his five surviving children a horn chair to have when they married.”

Appraiser Jim Flannery took a closer look at her treasure downtown at DuMouchelles at a recent appraisal session. “It’s funny that you mention Europe in the background, because that’s where this art form flourished,” he told her.

“The craftsmanship can be traced back to the Middle Ages. After the hunt, they had the conundrum about what to do with the horns. They started using them as hooks in Germany and it eventually moved into more functional furniture.” He says there was a peak period for this type of furniture in the late 1800s, about the time Honkanen’s grandfather would have come to the United States. “It flourished from then until the 1920s, when it went out of style,” he explained.

He admired her chair, which he says is a great representation of the style. “Yours is really unique and is a great representation of this type of work,” he told her. “There is a very nice symmetry.”

She told him that the chair originally had a needlepoint covering but had been recovered through the years, evident in the newer brocade fabric.

Even with the more recent upholstery, he said the piece would attract attention at auction if she were to sell it. “I’d value this at $500-$1,000,” he told her. “It’s well made and there would be people who would love to add it to their collection or use it in their country house or lodge,” he told her.

Despite that, Honkanen thinks she’ll keep it in the family. “Maybe my oldest son will like it,” she said.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item: Horn chair

Owner: Sally Brey Honkanen, St. Clair Shores

Appraised by: Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles

Item value: Approximately $500-$1,000