The Wingback Chair

English style wingback chair

September 28, 2015

The wingback chair dates back to the late 17th century as a profound chair with side wings, or cheeks. Also called a wing chair, easy chair, or grandfather chair, these chairs have back wings that extend forward typically to the end of the arm that partially form a barrier around the seated person’s upper body to block drafts while encapsulating heat emanating from a fireplace or hearth. While this gives wingback chairs a sense of regality, do not allow its traditional stereotype to lead you to believe that it only belongs in formal spaces. Its design has withstood the test of time because of its adaptability and flexibility to fit into any room such as a living room, study, dining room, bedroom, patio, and beyond.

Placement of wingback chairs can give entirely different feelings to the space. For example, placing a pair of wingback chairs across from each other at a table adds variety to the dining room. Make sure that the other chairs match well with the wingback chairs to avoid a style clash. The other chairs should not measure as tall, and should not take up as much space. To mix things up, consider using a pair of benches as the side seats. No matter the setup, keep in mind that the bulk of wingback chairs do not lend well to messier folks, especially children. Your wingback chair should use durable upholstery fabric, or at least have a stain guard applied. Finally, make sure that the wingback chairs’ arms can clear the tabletop; otherwise, the chair will not slide under the table neatly, sticking out and unnecessarily consuming space.

Empty space at the base of a foyer staircase is usually awkward and difficult to furnish. However, a handsome duo of wingback chairs does the trick without being overly heavy or fussy. They also create a useful place to be in view of the door while someone is waiting for a friend or a ride to the airport. Wingback chairs look great in pairs. Because their sinuous shape is so sculptural, they almost beg to be balanced in a room with a soul mate. There are three ways of pairing wingbacks. The first is placing them side by side with space between them to accommodate a fireplace, or a side table. Or they can be placed side by side with no space between. While this scenario replaces a love seat or sofa, it offers much more in terms of style and visual movement compared with a coordinating second sofa. Another way of coupling wingbacks is facing them opposite a coffee table, as in this living room.

When most people think of a wingback chair, a traditional chair is what usually comes to mind. The wings are typically curvilinear not only from a side view but oftentimes also from the front. The wings of traditional designs terminate in a rolled arm. Legs are typically turned, straight or cabriole shaped. Just because you have a traditional wingback chair frame doesn’t mean you have to stick with the same aesthetic for your fabric selection. Wingback chairs gained popularity in the mid-20th century. More streamlined than earlier versions, the midcentury examples usually have wings that are completely open or partially broken away from the arms. The wings are also typically integrated with the seat back to create a unified piece. Midcentury wingback chairs are typically upholstered in solid-colored fabric to emphasize the lines. As with any other upholstered piece, the amount of fabric required for a wingback chair will vary based on the fabric’s pattern repeat and width and the size of the chair. A good ballpark figure for an average chair is 6 to 9 yards.

Published by Schraff


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