Style: How to pick the right chair for you

Mary Carol Garrity

I’ve found that the world is divided into two groups: sofa people and chair people. Since you most likely have both kinds of people in your life, you will need both kinds of seats in your home. Last week, I talked about how to pick the perfect sofa. This week, the spotlight is on chairs. Here are my six tips to help you select the right chairs for every room in your home.

Determine how you will use the chair. How are you going to live in this chair? Is this where you will enjoy your morning coffee and the newspaper? Where you’ll work on your laptop? Before you know what kind of chair is best for a space, determine what you want it to do for your life.

Get the right size for you. My philosophy is you need to have furniture that fits you, not the other way around. I’m pretty petite, and a lot of chairs aren’t super comfortable for me because I can’t touch the floor! So, for my home, I like smaller scaled chairs. Or, chairs I can modify to fit, whether by slipping in a back pillow or sliding in an ottoman to prop up my feet.

When I’m waiting on a couple, I first try to figure out who will be sitting in the chair the most. Then, we find a style chair that accommodates their size best. Once you have a chair that fits your body well, you need to make sure it also fits your space well. I really like slipper chairs, because they are small enough to tuck in just about anywhere, like next to your nightstand, flanking a fireplace or floating behind a sofa for extra seating.

Pay attention to scale. It’s critical that the chairs you select match the scale of your home and the other furnishings in the room. It used to be people replaced their chairs because they were sick of the fabric. Now, the most common reason I hear is they realize that the oversized chairs they bought are just too big for their rooms. The proportions of their space are all out of whack, and the room doesn’t look as good as it could. When we work with customers who are looking for upholstered furniture — really, any furniture — we like to see photos of the space and the other pieces in the room. We have a great computer program that allows us to create a scale layout, so people will see exactly how their furniture will fit, and when a piece is too big or just the right size.

Buy what you love. Today’s consumers are full of confidence, and I love it! It used to be people purchased whatever style was popular at the time. But now, there are so many diverse options available in upholstered furniture, most of us are no longer led by trends, but by our inner style compass.

Now, furniture makers are playing with classic frames, coming up with looks that defy categories. One of my favorites is the new take on wingback chairs, with their modern flavor, crisper line and sexier legs. They are a great pick if you have a spot that needs a little height, like next to a fireplace or in an empty corner.

Sweat the details. Details do matter. That’s why we help our customers custom-design chairs that add unique personality and flair to their spaces. Don’t compromise. Get a chair that has a cushion that is not too firm, not too soft but just right. Insist on a back height and arm styles that allow you to do what you want to do in the chair, whether that’s read, watch TV, enjoy a meal or work on your laptop. Pick an upholstery fabric that shows your personality. And, finish with details that you love, like a contrasting welt, nail head trim or a band of trim.

Get the highest quality piece your budget will allow. In a world of low-end, mass-produced furnishings that quickly fall apart, I can’t stress enough that you should get the best quality furnishings your budget will allow. You will pay a bit more up front, but you will never regret it when you furniture still looks amazing, year after year. Look for kiln-dried hardwood frames, hand-tied springs, high quality fabric and quality workmanship, like pattern matching.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at