It's important to have a good feel for what you are looking for in a chair before you begin to shop. (Nell Hill's / MCT)
When you love to create home interior spaces that delight your eyes and refresh your senses as much as we all do, you know that a chair is so much more than just a place to sit. Itís an expression of your unique style. In the next few weeks, during the special order upholstered furniture sale at one of my stores, I will get to help customers pick upholstered chairs that will make their rooms singularly beautiful. Thatís a lot of pressure to put on a chair, isnít it? You bet it is! Thatís why itís important to have a good feel for what youíre looking for in a chair before you begin to shop. Here is the checklist I go through with my customers to help them pick the perfect chair for their home.
How will you use the chair? This is perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself, because everything else will stem from your answer. Will this be a chair that stands in a little-used formal room, or your favorite place to sit and watch TV or read? If this is a chair you want to relax in every day, comfort and durability are king. If the chair is more for show, you can go with a style thatís a little less sink-into-comfy and a fabric that is a bit fussier.
What is your style? There are a million styles of chairs out there. Which one is right for you? Formal? Traditional? Causal? Contemporary? Funky? There are even wonderful pieces that blur the lines between all these standard style categories. For example, designers today are reimagining the classic wing back chair, reinterpreting this timeless classic by making the silhouette cleaner, the upholstery bolder, the legs sexier.
You can further add to the chairís personality through the upholstery fabric you pick, from a classic print like a plaid to an edgy geometric. Not sure what style lights your fire? Flip through decorating books and magazines and mark the photos of chairs you love. Your style will surface quickly.
How high should the back and arms of the chair be? Once you know where you will place the chair, this question will be easier to answer. If your chair is going to sit next to an end table, make sure the arms of the chair are either a few inches above or below the tabletop. When I design rooms, I frequently put higher backed chairs, like a wing back, against a wall or flanking the fireplace instead of in the middle of the room so they donít obstruct the visual flow of the space. Another dimension to be concerned about is the height of the seat if you plan to use the chair as extra seating at your dining room table or as a chair for a desk. Most chairs are too low to allow you to reach the tabletop comfortably, so youíll want one with a higher seat.
What kind of cushions do you like? First you have to decide whether you want the chair to have a loose back cushion, which looks more inviting to some people, or a tight back, which offers a cleaner silhouette. Then, you have to decide what kind of seat cushion grabs you. Do you like a firmer seat or one that is super soft? The best way to decide is to give the chair the sit test.
What kind of arm do you prefer? Do you want the arm to show some wood or be padded? Thick or thin? If you want an arm style that will never go out of vogue, consider an English rolled arm. Youíll see this centuries old classic spotlighted in decorating magazines decade after decade because it stands the test of time.
Do you want a skirt? Skirts on chairs are still popular, though the height and depth of the skirt changes now and then. If you have pets, you might want to think twice about a skirt. If your cat or dog likes to rest against the chair when it sleeps, the oils in their skin and hair can make the skirt dingy. Dirty shoes can be a problem, too.
What kind of upholstery do you want? Do you need fabric that is durable enough for pets and kids? Consider covering your furniture with fabulous outdoor fabrics. Do you want a solid or a pattern? A dark or light? To help our customers decide, we take them to our fabric room, filled with hundreds of swatches of upholstery fabric. It doesnít take them long to zero in on the color and pattern that make them smile.
What is your budget? Iím a big believer in cheater pieces if you are able to get the same look for less money. But when it comes to upholstered furniture, you need to invest in high-quality pieces. Less expensive chairs, made with inferior materials and slipshod workmanship, donít stand the test of time. In contrast, when you invest in a well-made chair that uses top quality materials and expert craftsmanship, youíll get a piece that you will have for generations.