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Chairs

HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT VINTAGE CHAIR

We may be a bit biased, but chairs really do make a room. From the pared-back perfection of Herman Miller lounge chairs that are done up in lollipop hues to the next-level allure of vintage Art Deco club chairs, vintage chairs are the perfect vehicle for adding flair. Top designers clued in to the power of a vintage chair rarely pass on a specimen piece, whether they be in the market for one or not. In fact, unique armchair and chair collecting could be considered a kind of sport among the interior aesthete set. A surrealist duo of Charles Rennie Mackintosh chairs sequestered to the last row of a weekend flea? A vintage Paul McCobb chair marked down to the equivalent of a song? No self-respecting design enthusiast would ever—could ever—pass them up.

Vintage chairs aren’t just for the pros, either. Whereas the prospect of buying a vintage sofa can incite trepidation in the weekend warrior set, shopping for a vintage chair is more of a gateway endeavor. Miraculously mobile when compared to a sofa, vintage chairs pack a relatively low risk/reward ratio. As a hail mary, in most cases, vintage chairs can be reupholstered if things go south. Bring home a floral chair that bombed? Tot it off to the upholsterer and have it outfitted in a preppy plaid or cheery buffalo-style check. The same goes for a crew of animal print dining room chairs that didn’t go over as easily as planned. Swap out their seat cushions for an addictively touchable velvet or a dainty herringbone twill.

Some might point out the vintage chairs are rarely as comfortable, or ergonomic, as their less antiquated counterparts, but we reserve the right to respectfully disagree. Most contemporary chairs can’t hold a candle to Eames dining room chairs, artfully molded to conform to the body, or Arne Jacobsen’s womb-recalling Egg Chair. The trick to integrating those seats that don’t deliver as high of marks in the support department, such as iron garden chairs and antique birthing chairs? Use them more as a sculpture than as a functional feature.

If you’re in the market for a vintage chair, but you’re feeling a bit perplexed about what style chair will truly wake up your room, we’ve compiled a go-to list of vintage chair names worth plugging into your search bar.

Rocking Chair

Although they’re often typecast as an emblem of the geriatric, knitting-needle wielding faction, a vintage rocking chair used right can actually be a glorious thing. To ensure yours hits all the right notes, look for a rocker that leads with forward-leaning sculptural-ness over backward-tipping superannuation. Seek out designs by Scandinavian masters like Hans Wegner or Holger Georg Jensen that are artfully restrained with glides that might be better likened to the tails of renegade comets than rachitic skis. These are chairs that refused to be sequestered in a nursery or even the front porch. Give these rockers top billing status in a living room or den.

Wingback Chair

A high back, collar-like “wings” and a tightly tailored seat give the wingback chair its signature verve. While wingbacks have traditionally fostered feelings of stuffiness, designers have recently tapped into their irreverent alter-ego by re-upholstering them in less-than-expected prints. Kilims, ikats, even suzanis all have a knack for making wingbacks look sensationally chic and terrifically cheeky. Use one in a bedroom that lacks oomph or a living room that has madcap cottage aspirations.

Windsor Chair

Make no mistake about it: the Windsor chair has got back. Hailing from Europe, this stately seat’s timeless trademark is its eye-catching slatted spindle back. Variations run rampant, with some Windsors showcasing a radiant radial top rail and others a flat top panel with curvy cut-outs. Some come outfitted with spindle arms and yet others go without. Designers are fond of using Windsors in concurrence with dark, moody walls outfitted with a smattering of antique oil paintings, but there really are few scenarios in which a vintage Windsor chair won’t pull through like a hero. Like white subway tile and oversized sisal rugs, the Windsor is as close to dummy-proof as it gets.

Club Chair

Forget the momentary elan brought on by Instagram likes, all one really needs for a confidence boost is a club chair. Tall arms and a sunken seat lend an air of paramountcy to anyone who sinks into a club chair's depths. Originally named for their ubiquitous appearance in gentlemen's’ clubs, club chairs are second to none when it comes to adding presence to a room. Drop a pair in front of a fireplace to procure stately symmetry, or cozy one up to built-in bookshelves to create a nest-like nook. Club chairs outfitted in burnished leathers are a classic standby, but high-sided, snail-swirl-style swivel chairs decked out in vibrant velvets, à la Vladimir Kagan are no less inviting.

Slipper Chair

Just as its ballerine name might suggest, the slipper chair is a pretty perch ideal for spiffing up any space. An armless silhouette makes the slipper chair perfect for layering in front of other furniture in rooms where space is tight. Shimmy up a pair to the foot of a bed, a credenza, or even a fireplace to procure seating while still maintaining a thorough line of sight. Whereas hefty club chairs would make a room feel cut off, slipper chairs can make it feel layered with intention.