How to Pick the Perfect Vintage Accent Chair
Nothing adds character quite like an accent—especially when it comes to your living space. While some look to vases, trays, and objects to punctuate a room, the shape-shifting abilities of a vintage accent chair should never be overlooked. From the wingback chair to the slipper chair, secondhand accent chairs merge function and style; their smaller footprint allowing them to experiment with avant-garde designs more freely than, say, a large-scale piece like a bed or sofa.
Use a vintage accent chair to carve out an intimate nook in a living room or a bedroom (one perfect for curling up with a book), or place two adjacent a sofa to create a dynamic conversation triangle—and who can deny the allure of two club chairs placed in front of a rip roaring fire? Practical, yet also majorly mood-setting, used accent chairs are the perfect venue for playing with an unexpected bolt of color or pattern too.
While a wide variety of styles can make vintage accent chair shopping feel refreshingly unrestrictive, it can also lead to second guessing—is a tufted, caster-footed slipper chair is really the right fit for your lushly layered living room? To make things a bit easier, we’ve created our no-hassle vintage accent chair guide, below.
The Slipper Chair
A slim, armless profile makes slipping a vintage slipper chair into any space a cinch. Though it has a knack for feeling chic and modern, the slipper chair actually dates back to 18th-Century. Thanks to its low-sitting profile and lack of arms, the chair was a succinct place for for hoop-skirt-wearing ladies to perch while sliding on their stockings and slippers.
Perfect For?: There is something ultra femme about the vintage slipper chair, making it a Cinderella-worthy fit for a boudoir or a romantically-inclined living room. Place two in front of a bed to add drama to a room that might otherwise feel underwhelming, or use skirted models to surround a rustic-yet-formal dining table. Because vintage slipper chairs have no arms, they always lend themselves to squeezing in one more!
Details to Look For: We adore slipper chairs’ penchant for ladylike details, including tufting, skirting, and sleigh-rolled backs.
Born out of the downplayed opulence of the Rococo era, the Bergère is a proper-leaning armchair with a straight or barrel-shaped back and closed, wrap-around arms. (A word of note: the fauteuil, which is related to the bergère, showcases the same profile, but with open arms with padded elbow rests). The back and seat are frequently upholstered, with the seat often composed of a detached cushion.
Perfect For?: Bergères are pure confection, making them ideal for Francophiles with a penchant for macaroon-like color palettes and icing-style details.
Details to Look For: The upholstered nature of vintage bergère makes them game for trying out a fun fabric—think tartans, velvets, and bold all-over prints. Because a bergère is relatively petite (and is accented with a good amount of wood), prints that would read far too loud on a massive club chair or recliner work well here. So have a little fun and feel free to spring for that ginger jar-print cotton if you feel so inclined!
The Club Chair
Believed to have risen out of the popularity of the French fauteuil (which literally translates to “comfy armchair”), the club chair is the result of a revamp facilitated by the English in the late 19th-Century. More relaxed than the prim fauteuil, the English club chair was designed for the bourbon-sipping and fireside-lounging gentleman. Key features include a low-profile and enveloping arms. Indeed, this is a chair you can disappear in.
Perfect For?: Any space that shares real estate with herds of elk (the real thing, or mounted antlers).
Details to Look For: There’s no denying a club chair’s masculine feel. Play it up and opt for vintage club chairs in distressed leathers, nail head trim, and uber-boxy profiles.
Historically, wingback chairs were used fire-front. Their signature winged panels were used to capture the fire’s heat and warm the exposed decolletage of 17th-Century women. Today, they’re perfect for cultivating a cocoon-like escape right in your living room or office.
Perfect For?: Those who favor a full blown tradition (or a nod to it; see below).
Details to Look For:While there’s no arguing with the fact that a traditional wingback chair imparts an aura of Charles Dickens-like classicism on a space, those with a more modernist aesthetic shouldn’t discount the style. In the 1950s and 60s, Danish Modernist designers like Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen rebooted the wingback with incarnations like the Papa Bear and Egg Chair, respectively. These chairs feature wings that feel less like elegant scrollwork and more like bat or butterfly wings. The result is dramatic, and in some cases—straight up surreal.