The Slipper Chair: Ubiquitous and Useful

A slipper chair in a living room
West Elm

Names of various furniture shapes don't come any more interesting than the "slipper chair." It sounds feminine and romantic and seems like something that would be in a bedroom, but what exactly is a slipper chair? It's ubiquitous, and you've almost certainly seen bunches of these in your lifetime.

What Is a Slipper Chair?

A slipper chair is an armless upholstered chair that has short legs so that it sits closer to the ground. Slipper chairs came about in the 18th century and were mainly in women's dressing rooms. Here, Victorian upperclass women would sit on their slipper chairs and slide into a pair of silk slippers, which is how the chair got its name.

Slipper Chair History

When it first made its appearance in the early 18th century, this low-slung chair was used in women's bedrooms as seating, and it was often used when maids helped them put on their shoes, or slippers, as they were then often called. Hence the name. These smallish upholstered chairs stayed discreetly in the bedroom until the 1950s, when American designer Billy Baldwin brought them into the living room and added the option of box pleats at the bottom to hide the legs.

Slipper chairs are often found in mid-century modern designs, with a tight back and no box pleats so that the geometric form of the legs is prominent. Since the '50s, slipper chairs in a variety of styles have been integral to furniture used in both bedrooms and living areas and especially in spaces that are relatively small. 

How to Decorate With Slipper Chairs

Slipper chairs don't take up as much visual or physical space as other types and still provide a place to sit. Slipper chairs are virtually always upholstered, and the term now refers to a chair that features a wide, tight rectangle for seating and another tight rectangle for the back.

These highly versatile chairs have a multitude of uses and can be made to fit almost any decor scheme with a change of upholstery. Here are some ideas on how to use them in your house:

  • Place a pair of slipper chairs that do not have box pleats, so the legs are showing, in front of the windows, perpendicular to the sofa, in a smallish living room arrangement. These minimalist chairs allow the windows to be seen and accessed but make use of the space for seating. Match the fabric on the chairs for a balanced and more formal effect or cover one in a stripe or print and the other in a solid that is one of the colors in the other chair's covering for a more eclectic look.
  • Put an upholstered slipper chair either with the legs showing or covered by box pleats in a small corner with a tiny side table. This is a useful placement in either a living room or a bedroom. Cover the chair in a solid fabric and dress it with a couple of throw pillows covered in prints or stripes stacked up to the straight back for a dramatic effect and unexpected focal point.
  • Place a slipper chair with exposed legs opposite a sofa and coffee table arrangement for good conversation―the chair is easy to move and can be brought closer to the sofa if desired during an intense discussion. Cover the chair in an accent color to add a spark to the room and give the small chair presence.