Modern & vintage variations on armless chairs for any room. Part 1 – Victorian details.
Recently, I started looking at slipper chairs and couldn’t stop! Every time I found a lively chair that would be great for use in a living room, bedroom, kitchen, library, bathroom, front hallway or mudroom, another one in a different style, color or shape turned up. When I sat back to review what I’d curated there were more than two dozen beauties – 26 to be exact — the same number as miles in a marathon! So I’m presenting them in groups based generally on the style of the legs, which make similarities and differences easiest to see.
One reason armless chairs are so useful is due to their scale. Generally no taller than 36-inches, without arms they take up less visual space than an armchair. That makes them versatile in terms of placement and keeps things looking casual. In the past, slipper chairs had seat heights below the average 18-inches — that is no longer true today. The historical suggestion is they were low because they were used to get undressed or warm oneself by the fireplace. The term chauffeuse is still used for some framed slipper chairs (the French verb chauffer means to heat or warm.) These days the form is being adapted and reinterpreted purely for comfort and style. And with prices starting around $200, they need not be budget busters.
Leave it to me to fall in love with a completely bespoke slipper chair made in England [top]. Sigh. I can almost feel how the wonderful down in the plump seat and back cushions would feel as I sit, which is likely why this is called The Cushion Chair. These cushions are knife-edge, with no welting. Notice how they crown? Casters are traditional Victorian details and all four legs of this chair have them, which means it rolls without tilting. And, true to form, back legs are smoother than front legs which helps to avoid dings when they are pushed against a wall. This aqua and white calico print is an example of a fabric with a huge helping of personality which would works with any décor from boho to minimalist. In red damask, the same chair tells a different story. Soane Britain. Price N/A. Dimensions for reference: 24” w x 31” d x 35” h. Seat height: 19”.
Loose, welted back and seat cushions give the Kate slipper chair a tailored, conservative aura that marries well with the stubby turned “English” hardwood legs. Casters on front legs only means that the chair must be tilted forward to move it since the back legs are designed for stability. The discreet French pinstripe in the cotton-poly fabric also speaks to traditional style though it can mix with country or cottage. Of paramount importance, though, is that the stripes line up properly from the base through the pillows, which these do. Williams-Sonoma Home. $1350. Dimensions for reference: 24″w x 25″d x 32″h. Seat height: 18”.
When I think of sweet Victorian slippers, the Picadilly comes to mind. I viewed the chair in a variety of colors and patterns then chose Spice for the photo because upholstery details on this chair dominate most prints. That’s both the benefit and limitation of a chair with distinctive button tufting plus curved shoulders and an hour-glass-shaped back. I see a feminine silhouette that makes the Picadilly an immediate candidate for a dressing room, “her” cave, or spa bath. While it’s slightly shallow for lounging, it also would fit right into vintage or cottage décor. Serena & Lily. $1150. Dimensions for reference: 27” w. x 21” d. x 35” h. Seat height: 17”.
A full button-tufted slipper chair with its scrolled back almost screams “lounge in me.” If the Picadilly’s shallowish seat is yin, the Caroline, with its deep angled, is yang. This would be such a wonderful chair for a nursery! The trick with a style like this — which has a channeled rolled edge on the front of the seat – is to be sure it sits comfortably. A throw pillow might be required. Like the Picadilly, care must be taken with fabric choices (velvet or linen are options) due to the pattern created by the tufting. Turned oak legs with front casters only. Pottery Barn. $499. Dimensions for reference: 23.5″ w. x 31.5″ d. x 35″ h. Seat height: 16.5”.
Chairs don’t get much more elegant than this retro Deconstructed French Slipper finished in Sand Belgian linen. The intention is to look slightly unfinished — maybe even spirited out of an upholsterer’s shop — because the walnut frame is partially exposed and distressed with nail holes. Nor is there an attempt to hide lowly upholstery tacks, which on this chair serve as industrial/decorative details. Spindle-turned front legs with casters and the tightly scrolled back are additional period hallmarks. $520-$715. Restoration Hardware. Dimensions for reference: 23″w. x 32″ d. x 34″h. Seat height: N/A.
A pair of antique French boudoir chairs illustrate how difficult it can be to evaluate antique upholstered furniture pieces. Dated by the dealer to the 1940s, they have Victorian-style turned front legs with casters, and slightly angled back legs. Additionally, there is a gracefully arched back, with a center curve that tapers off into square-ish shoulders. I always wonder about furniture from the 1940s. World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945 and styles can overlap by decades. Most noteworthy, however — and the reason for their inclusion — is a singular feature: the lumbar support upholstered into the back of the chair — nearly disguised by the unfortunate choice of vintage and antique fabrics used for the upholstery. English Country Antiques, Bridgehampton NY via First Dibs. $4650. Dimensions N/A.
A vintage slipper chair, with no distinctive history, got a fabulous makeover by a Chicago dealer. Redone in vibrant tangerine velvet and offered for sale at a very modest price, it must have been snapped right up! The unusual angled back is fan-shaped and channel tufted, a motif often associated with Rococo Revival style furniture. The flared seat looks deftly finished with welting all around. The legs tell me this chair may have belonged to someone’s Grandma who bought it at her local furniture store, perhaps in the 1950s — it is typical of how a “find” can become a treasure. Furnishly.com, Chicago. $175. Dimensions for reference: 24” w. x 20” d. x 33 h.” Seat height: N/A.
Another favorite combines the contemporary look of a sectional sofa with two traditional embellishments – double-cross nail heads on the base just above tapered, paneled legs with spade feet. Deep enough to accommodate the thickness of the loose welted back cushion, this chair has a comfort quotient that can elevate it to investment status for a living room or den. Slipper Chair 1561-01. $2030. Lee Industries. Dimensions for refrence: 24 w. x 33” d. x 35” h. Seat height: 18″.
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