If you have ever lived in an old, drafty house like I have, you totally get why the world needs wingback chairs. Not only do they wrap their arms around you and keep you snuggly warm, they are so stunning that they elevate the style of any room they grace. For me, they are a must-have, a classic I will always want in my own home.
Wingback chairs smashed onto the decorating scene in England way back in the 1600s. These new-fangled easy chairs included “wings” that were affixed to the back of the chair, often reaching down to the chair’s arm. They were a hearthside chair whose purpose was to protect the inhabitant’s back from the room’s cold drafts while also holding in the heat from the roaring fire. Early models were all wood, but soon consumers wanted something a bit cushier to settle down into, so they evolved into the padded, upholstered chairs we know today.
Through the years, the wingback has changed with the times. Creative designers have reinvented this classic over and over again, altering the size and style of the arm, wings and back.
Here is how I like to use them in my home:
Cozy up your fireplace
Sometimes you just can’t improve on perfection. There’s a reason the wingback has been flanking hearths for hundreds of years. It can’t be beat when it comes to making a space feel warm and cozy. When we design living areas in homes with tall ceilings and open spaces, we like to include a pair of wingbacks in front of the fireplace because their height and weight draws the space together.
Even though the wingback silhouette is hundreds of years old, today’s styles are fresh and new. The wings are less confining, the arms less restrictive, the fabrics more varied.
Lend drama to your table
For a dining space that knocks it out of the park, use a pair of wingback chairs as the host and hostess seats. This is one of our favorite ways to add drama to a dining area. Want to experiment with some fun colors and bolder patterns? This is the perfect spot because you are covering smaller pieces of furniture (compared with a sofa) that is in a collection of more neutral pieces — a wood table and chairs.
When picking wingback chairs for your dining set, make sure the chair is high enough so you are comfortable when seated, but not so high you can’t push the chair in without smooshing your legs. Also, pay attention to the height of the arm. You don’t want arms so large and confining that it is difficult to get out of the chair easily. If you are worried about stains, consider your upholstery carefully. Leather is safest, as are fabrics made for outdoor use.
Frame a window or door
Wingback chairs can give grandeur to just about any spot in your home. Place a pair on either side of a large window, like my friend Julie did in her living room. Or, tuck one into an empty corner to create a cozy reading nook.
Style for your home office
Talk about your power chair! Raise the bar for your home office by swapping out a utilitarian desk chair for a wingback. While a classic wingback can’t be beaten in a traditional office, don’t discount the style if your office is more contemporary. You’ll find lots of wingbacks to choose from that have minimalist lines, fresh fabrics and sleek legs.
This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com.