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A chair isn’t simply a utilitarian object that provides a place to sit. Artists and designers have raised designer seating to an oeuvre d’art, an expression of personal taste and flair, a decorative piece that does much more than just occupy a few square feet of floor space. Categories and styles of seating are seemingly endless, from modern to vintage seating, but here is a breakdown of the basic types and forms, as well as some tips on how to use used seating.
An accent chair does just what its name implies – accentuates a space with a strong silhouette, scale or color. They come in many different styles – mid-century modern chairs, club, occasional, swivel, slipper, barrel, wingback, bergère, leather chairs and more. Accent chairs can add a splash of character to an entrance hall, be placed in front of a window, add a touch of comfort and style to a TV-viewing area, complement the décor of a family or living room, be tucked into a corner for a cozy book-reading space or even nicely fill out a spot in a bedroom or office. Accent chairs can be used alone or in pairs, for example, to create a comfortable area for coffee table conversation.
Bar stools are most often used in a kitchen or dining area, and they can be placed by an island or counter as decoration or usable seating. Shapes, materials and styles can be found to fit any particular taste, space or décor. Stools should be comfortable, so it is important to pay attention to seat shape, height and foot bar position. Adequate room is needed between stools; a distance of 26-30 inches between seat centers should provide sufficient space for eating, drinking and socializing. The location for the stools should be measured when planning to find the number of seats appropriate to the space.
A bench or settee adds a dash of style and flair to a room without taking up a lot of valuable floor space. While the words are often used interchangeably, a settee – often fully upholstered with arms and a high, straight back – is generally a bit more elegant than a bench. A simple bench can be placed just about anywhere – in an entrance hallway or foyer, under a window, or in a living room or bedroom. And depending on the style, it can be used as storage or even double as a coffee table. Settees are a bit comfier but still have a smaller footprint than a loveseat or sofa. They’re great for odd-shaped living rooms and corners in master bedrooms.
A chaise – from the French chaise longue, or “long chair” – is an upholstered seat that is perfect for reclining and relaxing. Chaises can be contoured and have one, two or no arms. Some have a straighter back, while others allow the user to fully recline. Chaises are great for sitting rooms, living rooms, and rooms with lots of natural light. A daybed usually has a regular twin-size mattress, a low back and two raised ends. During the day it can be used as a small couch. Since daybeds generally have backs, they can be placed anywhere in a room, not just against a wall.
Placed around a dining room table, most dining chairs feature an armless silhouette with a straight back. In some homes, the dining room is rarely used, while in others it’s often full of food, fun and warm conversation. A dining set may simply be a decorative piece, or it may be intended for frequent use. If the latter is true, padded seats and comfortable backs will ensure that guests stay awhile at the dining table. Since food and drink are always nearby, an easy-to-clean fabric such as vinyl or leather is helpful, or arrange upholstery with removable covers for easy cleaning and replacement. Dining sets are available in wood, metal, glass, and in many different styles – contemporary, mid-century modern, modern, postmodern, American, vintage chair styles and more.
Lounge chairs are the epitome of comfort and provide an ideal place to relax. They are usually fully upholstered, have a high back and arms, and often have a reclining mechanism and attached footstool that allows the user to lie down. Lounge chairs are perfect for the room that is used the most – perhaps the family room or living room – when one wants to sit back and read a book, watch TV, or just relax. A vast range of designs, forms and fabrics is available for this luxury chair category. A muted, monochrome chair sits nicely in a corner without standing out too much, while a larger one placed away from the wall complements the décor and commands attention in the room.
Many people spend long hours behind a desk, so their office chair must offer comfort and support from nine to five and beyond. These chairs usually have a padded back with lumbar support and a padded seat, are height-adjustable and are set on casters so they can roll and swivel. They can range from a simple plastic-and-fabric armless chair to a luxurious mahogany-and-leather seat for an executive's desk. Some office chairs are ergonomically designed for those who experience discomfort or pain when they sit for a long time. An office chair should complement the room décor and fit well with the desk both aesthetically and practically.
An ottoman or stool can be one of the most versatile pieces of seating in a living room. It can be put into service as a footstool, coffee table, seat, tuck-away storage area or place to display favorite books and magazines. It can be covered in tufted fabric, suede, leather or be a gorgeous piece made of wood and richly finished. A cozy sitting area can be created by placing an ottoman between two facing lounge chairs. An ottoman that has an interesting form or unusual shape can be also a great conversation piece. From casual and rustic to opulent and luxurious, an ottoman can be a charming accent or the centerpiece in the room.
During the warm summer months, many people spend hours outdoors on their patios and in their yards. The phrase “outdoor seating” is quite broad – it can mean everything from rustic benches and Adirondack chairs to casual hammocks and swing seats to extensive patio sets. Outdoor seating should fit nicely into the space designated for it. A large table & chair set on a small patio or porch is neither comfortable nor aesthetically appealing. Immovable features such as corners, walls, fences and trees can be incorporated to create a cozy and inviting space. Outdoor seating comes in many materials – metal, glass, plastic and woods such as wicker, bamboo, teak, pine, cedar, oak, cypress and redwood. Because materials absorb heat and water differently, it is important to consider choices with the local climate in mind.
Since a sofa or sectional will undoubtedly be the largest – and most used – piece of furniture in the room, it’s best to choose seating first and then fit other room décor and furnishings around it. Since sectionals are comprised of separate pieces, they’re generally more versatile than sofas. They also provide more seating, which is good for big families and a large number of guests. However, they also take up more space, occupying two walls or extending out into the room. A sofa is smaller, so there’s more open space for activity or for other furnishings. When choosing a sofa or sectional, specific features in the room should be considered, including doors, windows, fireplaces and other built-in elements. Sofas and sectionals should complement a room, not overwhelm it.
A swivel chair does what the name implies – it swivels or turns. Swivel chairs come in different forms, the most popular being upholstered armchairs and office chairs. They’re ideal for a room with a TV, allowing the user to swivel to watch TV or turn towards the room to join in the conversation. Swivel chairs are versatile and can be used in a small space, such as in a living room, family room or office.