The Occasional Chair 

By Karen Parr-Moody 


Bright color, sinuous curves, or a fabulous silhouette -- a single chair can serve as the ultimate accessory in a room. With the right look, an accent chair can transform a room's personality. There are arm chairs, corner chairs, club chairs, chaises, slipper chairs, and rocking chairs. 


An accent chair can brighten up a monotonous color scheme, add modernity to a dated room, or just look awesome as a statement piece in an otherwise timeless room. What's remarkable about accent chairs is, as a stand alone item, they truly don't have to match anything. For example, in my own living room, which has a camel-colored sofa and white walls, I added some tufted slipper chairs in blue velvet. They took the room from vanilla to va-va-voom. Similarly, a French Provincial armchair with pink silk upholstery amped up my bedroom, which was full of chocolate and almond tones. Accent chairs are that perfect addition that brings a room together.


A trip around GasLamp is enough to get one inspired about accent chairs and how to confidently use them in one's decor. Wingback chairs are always an easy style to incorporate. Though often seen in pairs, they stand alone without shame, and fit into many rooms. With a fabulous fabric or unusual color they can make a real designer statement. 

The interesting quality of this English oak armchair with carving, left, is that it is presents a "designer" vibe while still looking traditional ($395; Booth B-200). Its Oriental carpet upholstery resembles that of ikat fabric, a  favorite of interior designers. This vibrant fabric adds exotic flair to any room. Despite its distinctive appearance, this type of fabric actually mixes well with other fabrics in a room. Picking up some of the colors in this upholstery, then repeating them in other ikat fabric items in the room (pillows, curtains) would be a fun way to go boldly with exoticism while still retaining an overall traditional decor. 


This mahogany corner chair seen in the photo at right first came on the design scene in the early 1700s ($295; Booth B-200). At the time, several design influences were popular, including Baroque and Rococo. However, the corner chair --  also known as a roundabout chair --  has an inherent practicality that was probably influenced by a concurrent trend toward simplicity. 


This particular version is classic in its finish: It has a beautiful silk fabric upholstery and an inlay string design in the wood. Corner chairs are said to have been designed as gentlemen's writing chairs, and are only rarely seen in pairs. Popular during the Victorian Edwardian era, these chairs often have cabriole legs or Louis XVI legs. And while many were made of simple wood, or had only an upholstered seat, there were also fully upholstered versions. 


This corner chair could be used with a desk, or it could be used to soften the harsh corner in a room. Pairing it with a side table and lamp would be a great way to utilize a corner, making for a nice vignette, but also allowing for extra seating that can be kept tucked neatly out of the way.  


The clean lines of the classic Louis XVI oval-back chair never go out of style (photo, left, a 19th-century walnut Louis XVI side chair with carvings, $495; Booth B-308). Such a chair was part of the movement in the late 1700s that represented the beginning of Neoclassicism (and was influenced by Louis XVI's wife, Queen Marie-Antionette, its most ardent admirer). In this style of chair, the cabriole legs of the Louis XV were replaced with straight legs or slightly fluted legs that imitated the columns of ancient Rome. 


A Louis XVI  side chair is often seen used with other coordinating chairs for a dining room set. But alone, it can also add glamour to a small bedroom desk or console table. The beauty of the classical style of this much-loved chair is that it pairs nicely with more modern elements. This is the sort of chair that could be placed in a prominent spot in your favorite room.


The hand-caned bentwood chair in the photo, right, is best known as the Prague Chair ($125; Booth B-312). It was designed by Josef Hoffman in 1925, then produced by Thonet in Czechoslovakia and imported by Stendig in the 1960s. (Thonet was so well-known for iconic design that here is still a museum devoted to it in Europe.) This chair was designed during a prolific period of 20th-century furniture design work. At this time designers such as Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand were creating designs by using tubular steel, a new material of the time. Bentwood chairs of this time were used as commercial furniture, such as restaurant chairs. The Prague Chair sits equally well in a traditional or contemporary environment, and can be used for a desk, dining, or a corner. In particular, this chair has a "Mad Men" masculinity that would work well in a man's bedroom. 


Accent chairs not only provide functionality, they impart a feeling of luxury in a home. Choosing one with some decoration is one of the many ways a person can add a designer feel to their surroundings. 

Print this page