What’s classic, curvy, and Greek all over? Why it’s the klismos chair, of course, the unique seat with ancient origins that’s survived through thousands of years of style wars. Dating back to at least the fifth century BC—making it the same age as the Parthenon—the klismos chair is famed for its rounded backrest and outward-turning legs, sometimes called sabers for their resemblance to the sword. In an ironic twist, the culture that obsessed over developing several types of straight columns for their architecture devised a chair with more curves than the Aegean coastline. (And in case you’re curious, the concept of irony is a Greek invention, too.)
Like any trendsetter, the klismos has seen its share of ups and downs over the millennia; cool for the Classical Age, it fell out of favor during the Hellenistic Period. The gallivanting globetrotters of the Grand Tour revived the klismos during the Neoclassical era in Europe, bringing it back in vogue in the late 18th century. Since then, new iterations with local flavor have taken root, including ornamentations and carvings introduced in the 19th century, while curved legs started popping up on other furniture, particularly settees and chaise longues.
What’s next for the crowd-pleasing klismos? Anything’s possible. These enduring chairs were literal seats of power in Ancient Greece, and a set of them sits in the White House today, designed by Anglo-American Neoclassicist (and Capitol architect) Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Whatever the style gods of one particular era may decide, you can never count out a classic.
To shop a curation of our favorite klismos chairs, click here. To read all of Magazinish, click here.