Chairs tell style stories that can enhance or fight a room.
Recently, I saw a query that asked how to make someone’s old chairs work in her new living room. The photo showed sleek, black leather armchairs that would be perfect in a den or modern office. But the owner wanted to marry that tough look with a yellow suburban living room with white trim and unusual windows. Mission impossible, I thought.
Chairs are sometimes whimsical choices or an attempt to get along with other furniture. Because they are inherently sculptural, their shape, size, scale, style, color and texture can make them anything but basic. These ten show us why.
Mid Century Comfort [top] – One of the 20th Century architectural furniture icons, Arne Jacobsen’s 1957 Egg chair excels at comfort with its body-wrapping high back, thick seat and study center base that makes you want to run over and try it out. The height and graceful sculptural scooped out front establish the chair as an importance piece that holds substantial space in any room.
All Purpose European – Combining sumptuous coziness and a traditional armchair form, the Firenze, from Belgium’s Flamant style-tore features rolled arms, a tight back and tight, cushionless seat that leans back slightly. Turned legs and casters suggest it can be easily moved. So along with the neutral gray fabric and pale wood finish it is versatile enough to get heavy use in a nursery, kitchen or great room, a living room, bedroom or den.
Active Lifestyle – The contemporary Danish designer Jesper K. Thomsen strips down furniture in his Camping line to curved natural beech frames and interlaced leather. His chair and matching ottoman has an indoor-outdoor spirit similar to handmade sandals. Sturdy and casual, it’s the essence of earthy.
Practically Modern – Durable and washable, this molded fiberglass clone of the classic Eames DAR chair expands the color range while retaining the form and materials of the original. Popular for dining and breakfast rooms, this style telegraphs the youth and hipness fueling the current yen for mid-twentieth century color and home design.
Man Cave – For me, weathered leather and a chrome frame sends out a retro ’60s office furniture vibe that men seem to favor. I could see this next to a desk, in his dressing room or a pair on just the right shag rug facing a sofa in the study.
Sleek & Chic – Small, feminine and refreshingly chic with its contemporary yellow flowered fabric, the Tomo side chair from the French furniture house of Philippe Hurel is variation on the klismos. Lacking arms, chairs with this sophisticated silhouette seem made for sitting and sipping rather than lounging but the upholstered seat and cut-out barrel back do amp up the comfort factor.
History Updated - Louis XVI medallion-back fauteuils have been going strong for three centuries now. While their popularity rises and falls, they are a hidebound basic that has never disappeared. Originally white or natural wood, we’ve seen in every possible color and frame finish and upholstery ranging from this boudoir pink to zebra. Grange took a stab at an update by giving the frame a metallic finish the color of zinc and still managed to make it look as conservative as ever.
Modern Minimalism – Modeled after an army cot, this Fredrickson Stallard Hyde chair boasts a solid walnut frame and wool upholstery. The little back pillow has discreet black mattress ticking stripes that make it a natural partner for black leather, concrete, metal and streamlined décor.
Deco Elegance – Tub chairs are the Meryl Streeps of the furniture world, chameleons that can take on almost any personality with a change of fabric. In brown and bone linen this Roche-Bobois Ondine chair bespeaks a formal but crisp modernity. Switch it out to nubby purple or a Missoni print and it’s a different movie.
Boho Color – Quirky, girly and tons of fun, the bohémienne spirit is definitely on trend in this Designer’s Guild armchair. Not too comfy, yet not too firm, it’s the perfect place for her to perch while she pulls on her favorite thigh-high boots.