This Retro Chair Style Is Making a Comeback

Swivel chairs are gaining popularity again.

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Gray swivel chairs in bedroom

Rikki Snyder

Swivel chairs are a well-balanced blend of style and utility. They make it easy to maneuver without actually moving (unless they have wheels) and provide more mobility than a standard stationary chair. They're perfect as accent chairs in living rooms and dining rooms or for spinning around in slow-motion behind your desk to channel blockbuster movie boss energy.

Though they originated in the 1700s, their popularity really blossomed throughout different decades. In the 1950s on onwards, these swanky swiveling seats donned the corners of homes as accent chairs. Swiveling office chairs also boomed in the 1980s when a huge push came about for ergonomic work furniture that would protect employees' posture and health (though simpler versions had been a fixture at desks in prior decades). Since then, the clunky office chairs you might be picturing have transformed. Save for a home office chair, they faded somewhat in terms of being trendy, but recently they've made a comeback in their newest forms.

Part of the reason why swivel chairs are seeing a renaissance may be the amount of time people are now spending at home for work, entertainment, and relaxation. A swivel chair is suitable for all three, whether you choose a swivel office seat, dining chairs that turn, or a well-cushioned armchair that spins. It makes reaching an oddly-angled desk drawer a piece of cake, it simplifies conversing with multiple people, and when combined with cushions, it's the perfect place to curl up with a book or take a mid-afternoon nap.

White swivel chair by staircase

Le Clair Decor

History of the Swivel Chair

The swivel chair has shifted and evolved throughout the years and though there are many different styles, colors, fabrics, shapes, and mechanisms, they all provide the same thing: a chair that can turn, spin, and move in style.

It's reported that President Thomas Jefferson finagled the first variation of the swivel chair that's used today. They're associated with peak productivity, and Jefferson must've found this to be true as he made amendments to a chair he brought back from Philadelphia, enabling it to turn. It was said that he also drafted the Declaration of Independence from this chair.

Fast forward many years to the era in which this style of chair really took off stylistically: the late 1950s. This was after Ray and Charles Eames created yet another iconic piece of furniture—the Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman—which exploded in popularity post its television debut. Since then, they've floated in and out of the mainstream and have been developed in new colors, textures, and shapes.

More popular today are barrel chairs, which take this concept of a swivel chair and mix it with Frank Lloyd Wright's cylindrical furniture invention. It was dreamt up for one of the homes Wright was designing—the Martin House—and was used throughout several rooms.

Since Wright's advent of the chair, it's filled out a bit from the wooden structure it once was. When equipped with a swiveling base and beefed up with cushions and textured fabrics, you have a chair that's found in many trend-focused homes today. And like the original, it's rare to find a room without some version of a swivel chair gracing it.

Modern and contemporary living room with swivel chairs

Maite Granda

Styling Swivel Chairs

The sky is the limit with swivel chairs, and overall most rooms do well having one incorporated. Accent chairs run the gamut of styles and shapes. There's no easier way to break up a space and literally add movement than with one that swivels. These are especially popular in places with a mid-century-modern-inspired theme, but with the endless options of swivel chairs, it's hard not to find something for any style of home. The variety of rooms that make good candidates for swivel chairs is fantastic.

Home Offices

Home offices are a clear contender for having a swivel chair. They're perfect for behind desks or if you meet with clients, having one or two on the other side of the desk for something that's moveable, comfortable, and stylish.

Dining Rooms

Oftentimes dining room chairs are stationary, but in social situations being able to turn and interact is important. Rather than a standard dining chair, switch it up with rotating seats to make dinners last longer and add a little visual interest to a space that typically doesn't see this type of seating arrangement.

Bedrooms

In bedrooms, a swivel stool or ottoman acts as a great bit of seating in a walk-in closet. For large primary bedrooms, swivel chairs are fantastic for filling up empty corners. Sleeping quarters are easily forgotten when considering accent chairs, but for a space where relaxation is a necessary pillar, good seating is key.

Living Rooms

Complement any couch or sofa with a swivel chair (or two) depending on what the room can accommodate. Flank the sides of a loveseat with swiveling chairs, set them up across the main seating arrangement, or create another seating vignette entirely with swivel chairs holding down the space.

Leather swivel chairs in office

JK Interior Living

Shop These Swivel Chairs

Trying to scope out the perfect swivel chair? The following options will provide perfect seating for any room of any style.

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West Elm Millie Swivel Chair

Swivel chair by West Elm

West Elm

Currently, bouclé is one of the trendiest materials working its way into homes. For a chic pop of this texture in a living room or bedroom setting, this swivel chair fits the bill. The wide seat makes it particularly comfortable and don't worry—if bouclé isn't quite your thing the modern chair comes in a variety of other colors and fabrics, too.

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Article Makeva Swivel Chair

Article swivel chair

Article

Velvet is another impeccable material choice for accent chairs. Throw in a bright color and you have the epitome of what the perfect accent chair should be: eye-catching, fun, and aesthetically pleasing. Built on a solid wood frame and equipped with a cushy backrest, it's ideal for lounging.

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Art Leon Mid Century Modern Swivel Accent Chair

Mid-century modern swivel chair

Amazon

On the hunt for a work from home upgrade? Swap out any boring seat for this light blue option that's the furthest thing from a classic, clunky office chair. At first glance, it doesn't look like it swivels (it does) and will easily fit into stylized rooms rather than draw attention away from the hard work that's gone into designing your perfect workspace.

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AllModern Bennett Swivel Barrel Chair

A swivel barrel chair by Allmodern

Allmodern

With a timeless color and shape, this swivel chair is really built for any need and earned seals of approval in the comfort department from several reviewers. Test it out in the living room or move it into a corner of your home office to break up your routine and viewpoint.

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Everly Quinn Pokorny 28.4'' Wide Swivel Armchair

Swivel armchair by Everly Quinn

Wayfair

It's hard to go wrong with a leather-like chair. Faux or real, they're classic and won't feel dated in a number of months. It's fitting for a study, office, or placed in the corner of a living room that needs a bit of edge or grounding—two things this kind of finish can provide.

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Wade Logan Lengby 29.75'' Wide Velvet Swivel Barrel Chair

Swivel barrel chair from Wayfair

Wayfair

This swivel chair stands out thanks to its preppy transitional design, muted blue color, and Hollywood Regency flair. It's easy to visualize it in the corner of a bedroom or presented in a set of two across from a couch. The color and shape make it a nice choice for coastal homes, too.

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Wade Logan Rayshawn 22.83'' Wide Swivel Armchair (Set of 2)

Set of two yellow swivel chairs

Wayfair

Jazz up a dining room table with comfortable chairs that not only have armrests, but swivel, too. The more popular models that are found in spaces like living rooms and bedrooms are often too big for many tables, but this sleek set isn't as large and their narrow legs make them easy to push in and out.

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Lulu and Georgia Tomi Swivel Chair

Cream colored large swivel chair

Lulu and Georgia

Anyone really looking to invest in an accent chair, but not looking to pay the price for an original Eames or another iconic swivel chair, will love this modern option. It's bold in its own way and encompasses fun modern shapes in a soft, chunky way that's slightly Kindercore (minus the vibrant colors, which makes it more sophisticated).

Article Sources
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  1. A Legacy of Struggle: The OSHA Ergonomics Standard and Beyond, Part I. NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy.