Chair design through the years has had some significant changes in order to adapt to the times and demands; however, some designs remain timeless till today and are always being redesigned to fit the contemporary trend!
A chair is a defining character in the history of furniture. It is the item which has enjoyed the most fame over the years and its various interpretations are arguably the design world’s most iconic products.
Wing Chair (16th Century)
The design has been offered various twists over the different ages – Queen Anne designs feature seashell motifs on the knee of their cabriole legs whilst Chippendale designs featured Marlborough legs. Nailhead trim was also traditionally used. Angular lines, pronounced wings and split carcases are just some of the elements which define modern versions of the chair.
Louis XV Fauteuil (18th Century)
A Louis XV fauteuil is known for its intricately carved show wood frame, open arms, gilding, padded back and curved lines. Silks, satins, damasks and velvets were used in the original production. By the Louis XV era, cabriole legs were shorter giving it a much lower profile than its predecessors and stretchers were eliminated. Original designs were often signed much in the way cabinetry would be – proof of their significance – with notable chair makers including Tilliard and Lebas.
Directoire-Style Armchair (18th Century)
A transitional era between the Louis XVI and Empire periods, the Directoire style was prevalent during the last five years of the 18th century. Greatly influenced by the ancient Greeks and Pompeians, furniture took a much simpler form than the elaborate Louis aesthetics, featuring classical elements and Neo-classical architectural details. The carving was minimal and motifs included urns, sphinxes, palmettes and lyres.
Chesterfield Club Chair (19th Century)
The Chesterfield club chair is characterised by its deeply button-tufted leather, rolled arms and squared backrest. The addition of turned wood legs on casters creates a lighter design and one which can be moved with ease. Modern incarnations are often upholstered in linen or other cotton-rich fabrics.
English Roll Armchair (19th Century)
Also known as a Bridgewater armchair, this design is named for its set-back English roll arm which is low-set, gently curved and pleated towards the front. In this example, the backrest features a subtle scroll although a loose backrest and loose T-shaped seat cushion is also a prevalent style. Turned legs on castors is a notable feature of many traditional seating designs and the English roll armchair is no exception.
Art Deco Curved Armchair (20th Century)
Primarily recognisable for its curved lines, this Art Deco armchair is an iconic piece of the 20th century and – like most Deco designs – is as fresh and sophisticated now as it was one hundred years ago. The design’s unbroken curved backrest and the seat pad are accented with sloping arms which remains continuous with the back – an element which gives the design a brilliantly fluid feel. The peek of show wood frame in this example offers a linear outline to the nearly fully upholstered chair in keeping with Art Deco’s penchant for structure and normally unseen framework.
Jean-Michel Frank-Style Armchair (20th Century)
This armchair is impressive for its apparently contradictory appeal – it channels an angular, tailored aesthetic but incorporates the look into a roomy and padded armchair design. Its smart look has proven it a popular piece in luxury commercial realms, such as waiting areas and offices, but the addition of a cushion also renders it an appropriate choice for stylish living areas. Its fitted arms and back maintain cohesion in the design and a tapered block foot – an original design feature – has gone largely unchanged, indicative of the design’s purity.
Klismos-Style Accent Chair (Originally 430 BC, Modern 20th Century)
Undoubtedly the oldest chair design in this set, the klismos is a remnant from the ancient Greek empire and one which has been reproduced – based on archaeological artefacts – and reimagined in many ages. Its main characteristic is the use of sabre legs (concave, tapered and splayed legs) and a curved back which extends to produce wings. Original designs would have been made entirely of wood making them very light.
Knoll Lounge Chair (20th Century)
Designed in 1955 by Florence Knoll for her widely successful eponymous company, this lounge chair is notably inspired by Florence’s architectural training. The lounge chair’s built-in back and seat cushions are punctuated with shallow square button tufting whilst the simple metal base and legs are left exposed. The look is understated, eternally modern and informed.
Cantilever Chair (20th Century)
The increasing use of stainless steel in furniture production led the way for modern designers to experiment with the hardy material and achieve things which were never before possible. Although Marcel Breuer’s impressive 1925 Wassily armchair was the first to use a bent tubular steel frame, Dutch designer Mart Stam was the one who patented the cantilever chair the following year.
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