Upholstered chairs have been around for centuries now and varied styles are still popular in homes today, whether antique or newly crafted. Learn more about several styles that were built with cushioned comfort and lounging in mind.
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Bergère Chair Style
The bergère (pronounced burr-jair) is a type of early upholstered armchair with closed sides (in comparison to open sides, as exhibited in the fauteuil shown below) that celebrated the change from more rigid, uncomfortable chair designs of the past when it was brand new. The sides are usually upholstered, but can also be made of cane in some models. It was built for comfort with a long, wide cushioned seat. Backs can be high or low, and square, round, curved or conical (flowing without a break... into the arms) in shape. These chairs were first developed in France around 1725 at the end of the Régence period, and they flourished throughout the 18th century. Characteristic of Louis XV, Louis XVI and other Rococo styles, but adapted in many ways centuries later. Woods used in the arms and back trim can be painted, gilded, or natural in tone. This style is still as popular today as it was when it first came about for lounge use in stylish homes centuries ago.
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Fauteuil Chair Style
Fauteuil (pronounced foe-toy) literally translates "armchair" in French. In reference to antique furniture, it specifically means an upholstered armchair with open sides like the one shown here. It was developed in the late 1600s in France, towards the end of Louis XIV's reign and remained popular in the 18th century. The style not only became lighter and more graceful in appearance as time passed, but also more ornate - the chair arms were many times upholstered to match the back... and seat. Variations include the fauteuil à la reine (Queen's armchair), which has a square, high back as opposed to a rounded one.
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The Morris Chair
The term Morris Chair defines a deep, high armchair with an adjustable reclining back and cushions for the back and seat. It traditionally has spindle or slat sides and bow arms. It was named for Arts and Crafts proponent William Morris, and the original chair was actually designed by his business partner Philip Webb based on folk chairs found in Sussex, England, and first produced by Morris & Co. around 1869. The style was widely copied and adapted by other furniture-makers during the Arts... and Crafts period including Gustav Stickley. Many were upholstered with leather like the example shown here. This style is often considered to be the precursor of modern recliners, and were clearly developed with relaxation in mind.
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Slipper Chair Style
Any sort of armless, upholstered chair that sits low to the ground (around 15 inches, vs. the usual 17 to 19 inches) qualifies as a slipper chair. They usually have high backs and wide seats.
They became popular during the first quarter of the 18th century - probably as an item for the boudoir or bedroom - flourished in the 19th century, and experienced a revival in the mid-20th century. Designers John Henry Belter and Billy Baldwin are both known for their slipper chairs.
Slipper chair styles can... vary enormously - from the thin, conical-backed Gothic Revival variety in the Victorian era to the squat, square-shaped style popular in Mid-Century Modern furniture.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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The Wingback Chair
This type of upholstered easy chair, usually taller than it is wide, has two side panels or wings flanking the high back and closed panels under the arms, which are usually rolled. Depending on the period when the example was made, the legs can be straight, cabriole or (more rarely) turned, with correspondingly varied feet. Pad and claw-and-ball feet are particularly common in these chairs. Though a precursor was known in France (see the similarity to the bergère above), the most familiar form... developed in late 17th-century England to protect sitters from drafts or an overly hot fire and it remained popular both there and in the United States for 200 years. It is especially associated with 18th-century styles such as Queen Anne, Georgian, Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. The wingback chair is still popular in stylish homes today.
Special thanks to Troy Segal, former contributing writer, for her assistance with this article.