The other day while researching for another post, I came across a quote from the legendary interior designer Juan Montoya. Mr. Montoya, some of you might recall, was one of several controversial designers who had some legal trouble several years ago.
Here’s the quote from Elle Decor concerning chairs, most likely club chairs and the like.
“A-List interior designer Juan Montoya, who believes living rooms will have more furniture and more comfortable chairs, though smaller in scale.”
Did he just say “smaller in scale?”
He did, right? Hooray!
Well, I hope that the furniture manufacturers are reading this. Because if there’s one way for us all to throw out our old furniture and buy new, it would be to create something entirely different.
However, in this case, I’m hoping that it’s actually something old.
The side view of my smaller scale club chair is so pretty.
But, what’s the norm these days is not like the chair above. It’s something we might call:
FUBBBS = FAT, UGLY, BLOATED, BOXY, BIZARRE
This styling proliferates at numerous brands in the market place. Every market, I keep hoping for a glimmer of change. And yes, with some brands, like Hickory Chair and Century and of course, Lee Industries and others, I do see some stunning furniture. But most of it, in my opinion, misses the mark and/or is downright horrendous.
So, it’s time for a reset button.
Oh, I’ve written about this before. It comes up all of the time. And it comes up because every once in a while; I just have to let off some polyester batting.
And one reason is; there is so much that needs to come together to make a beautiful room.
You can have a gorgeous space with 13-foot ceilings and 8-foot windows, mouldings up the wazoo like I’m fortunate to have. And then you furnish it with the likes of those club chairs above. Imagine that.
It’s like a gorgeous woman in the world’s ugliest wedding dress.
What was she not thinking? (Or, maybe she was trying to hide that she’s seven months pregnant?)
Sorry. Where was I?
Oh yes, reset button.
ou see… there are beautiful chairs out there.
But most of them are old. Or, a new one costs the same as a semester at an Ivy League College.
What makes for a beautiful club chair?
Let’s look at some gorgeous old, classic club chairs.
Below is my favorite chair on the Laurel Home Ultimate Paint Palettes and Home Furnishings Collection, part II of the Laurel Home Paint Collection.
This beauty is a vintage or maybe even an antique chair that was reupholstered at Chairloom. Do you know Chairloom? (not to be confused with Chairish). They have a great business reupholstering old chairs, either theirs or yours. And, Chairloom will also consult with you and provide gorgeous designer fabrics if you want to update a cool chair you’ve found.
They are one of 100s of my favorite home furnishings sources in Laurel’s Rolodex.
Is this not the most divine club chair you’ve ever seen?
If you don’t think so, then we’re going to need more than a reset button. I think we’ll need to go for a full detox session. Haha
Above I manipulated the upholstery color for one of my boards in the Laurel Home paint palette collection.
I also used it in a mock-up of my living new living room I created several weeks ago.
I don’t think I’m going to stain my floor white even though I love the look. I’m still mulling it over. But, I would love these chairs!
The closest I can find is the George Smith Jules Chair. This is also a gorgeous chair.
Later I went on a hunt for the world’s most beautiful club chairs.
And yes, I found some new ones, but let’s take a look back in time to the beginnings of the most beautiful club chairs.
The club chair had its beginnings in the plethora of Gentleman’s clubs that sprang up in 19th century England. Although, I read that men’s clubs began in the 1600s. But most chairs didn’t have much upholstery until the late 1800s.
Two companies date back to the earlier part of the 19th century. The most well-known one in the US is George Smith, but it seems that another company, Howard and Sons, has more antique chairs in the marketplace. Both companies are still in existence. Howard and Sons can be found here.
Here are some of the original Howard and Sons club chairs. (and other less “clubby” ones too) These are from the late 19th century.
Those lines! These, of course, are the classic English roll arm with a small scroll back.
These are racehorse, sleek, and no wonder. They are stuffed with horsehair. Haha. Back in the day, it was what they used, and to this day, horsehair is still used in some expensive upholstered pieces. But, it’s not easy to find.
Above is a 3/4 view. As you’ll see… a lot of these chairs are upholstered in this pattern. These are quite dirty, which is a shame. They are the classic Bridgewater style with an English Roll arm. I found them on 1st Dibs, where you can read a bit more about them. These are sold, but the one below is for sale.
They’re boasting that it’s the original ticking fabric.
Ya think? And, it looks like they left this $10,800.00 masterpiece in the middle of a cow field.
That’s a lot of cash for a piece that will require stripping down to the bare frame.
Buuuuutttt, it’s the FRAME that is what makes the chair.
It’s like the bones of a supermodel. They don’t make furniture frames like this anymore. Well, no one in the USA does, anyway. The closest is Lee Industries. As you may know, Lee makes some of the furniture for Serena & Lily and Williams Sonoma Home.
A beautiful Howard and Sons slipper chair. Notice how the seat on this and the Bridgewater chair slopes down. I have found that chairs do this, feel deeper than they are. And it’s a beautiful look.
Above is a similar chair, and I love it. But, I think it’s discontinued. Too bad. It’s one of my favorites.
Oh, the English. We Americans will never understand how they can plunk down $900 for something our Salvation Army wouldn’t accept for FREE. But, it’s smart because they can have a priceless antique reupholstered, and it will be glorious and unique. This is from Max Rollit, who created Ben Pentreath’s sofa.
Above another Howard and Sons Bridgewater or English roll arm club chair. This one is old but has had a complete overhaul. This is from Dean Antiques. There are many beautiful, old refurbished chairs to check out and other gorgeous antiques—what a lovely shop in the UK.
This is another well-known Howard and Sons style found at William James Antiques. The seat is an exceptionally low 15″. And over the years, I’ve heard people gasp at the notion. But “the throne” is about 16″ and so is the average picnic bench seat. I admit, that 15 is a little low, but 17 would be fine. Most of the old chairs are only about 32″ high, and some are even lower.
These chairs are not the hunky club chair but very pretty and only 31″ high. You’ll find a leather version coming up later on.
What about new club chairs?
Yes, there are chairs today that imitate these to some extent. But these old chairs are sleeker.
My point is… Can’t they make these kinds of chairs at affordable prices? I don’t know how much a George Smith Chair is now, but 25 years ago, they were at least $5,000. So, are they $10,000? It’s a lot of money.
Here are some more expensive but insanely beautiful club chairs
Beautiful, classic club chair from Jonas Furniture. Photo by Don Freeman
Above is a pretty George Sherlock chair. This is another English company that makes the most gorgeous chairs. They are a relatively young company, starting only 50 years ago.
Another beautiful down-filled, new club chair from George Sherlock.
Found it on 1st Dibs, but no longer have the link for it. Down is lovely for seat and back cushions, but it does require a lot of fluffing. I prefer spring-down. I do love the French seams on the seat cushions, in place of standard welting, too. The overall height is only 32″. I love that.
That is the same as my eight-year-old club chairs from CR Laine. They have since discontinued this pretty chair. I don’t know why.
There are also some lovely, more moderately priced chairs.
This is lovely, but do you see the areas lacking somewhat in the refined styling of the Howard and Sons Chairs? It’s in the details.
These are two out of about 30 different chairs that are part of the featured furniture on the 40 boards for the Laurel Home Ultimate Paint Palette and Home Furnishings Collection. (You can find the info here)
So, I will be interested to see if Juan Montoya’s prediction comes true.
I have my doubts. The colossal furniture trend of the last 40 years or so seems to be firmly entrenched.
In the meantime, here is a widget with some more of these vintage beauties for sale. Some are very expensive, and some are more reasonable.
The dark red classic, velvet club chairs are new, from George Smith. If you click on that source, (below) I believe they have other new George Smith chairs for sale with custom fabrics, and their prices are excellent, too.
Oh, how I do wish they’d bring back these exquisite old styles. But, of course, at affordable prices.
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES.
In closing. This was a horrific week in the history of our nation. I spent half the day on Wednesday crying. So, there’s only one solution that helps me more than anything.
And, this young man, Gabriel Figueredo, the top male prize winner two years ago at the Prix de Lausanne will mesmerize you with his insane ballet technique, artistry, legs, and feet. He is so beautiful, it hurts.
Please enjoy the exquisite 20-year-old, Gabriel Figueredo, and please follow him on Instagram!
I love you all!
I adore these vintage chairs, and to my husband’s dismay, buy them whenever I can find them. Over 20 years ago, I purchased a pair of 40s club chairs at an auction for $50 each. They have wide gold and red stripes, and the most interesting fringe along all the seams. I adore them. They are shabby now and I had put them in the garage until I found the time to upholster them (it’s my latest thing to learn), but now I’m going to pull them out and bring them back inside again. They deserve it.
Club Chairs plays a big role in backyards and I am looking forward for more article about Club Chair Sanibel. Thank you for sharing this very informative article.
Oh, and if you like ballet, check out Sergei Polunin, fabulous dancer, huge jumps!
Yes, Sergei is a fabulous dancer. I don’t just like ballet. I’m obsessed with it and have been most of my life.
Great topic, beautiful chairs! Again, once just needs to look at the English for most things furniture. The French Bergere is really nice, though, and the Louis chairs. I subscribe to The English Home magazine, my favorite of all, and it’s full of stylish chairs like the ones you brought up as good examples. George Smith is beyond reach for most people, but I have it from an old upholsterer that if you ever want a greatly made piece like back in the days quality (I was looking at that time for a Chesterfield sofa) George Smith is the way to go. Needless to say, I didn’t go with the GS Chesterfield, but I tracked down a company in the US who makes acceptable Chesterfields. Unfortunately, they don’t make nice English club chairs though. That’s the other thing, upholsterers. It’s a dying breed. It’s not just the frame with its well thought out curvatures, it’s the artisan hand work of a good upholsterer is needed too to finish the work, and we no longer have them anymore. The last one in our town is closing shop after gazillion years. They can only survive now in major metropolitan areas like NY, London,etc. There were talks about the old furniture industry coming back to the US…I’m still waiting for that, and for the nice curvaceous chairs to make a come back.
I have always hated the huge chairs and sofa’s that seem to be the norm today! However, what I noticed about your pictures of older vintage chairs, is that, while they are beautiful, most of the backs are slanted. Have you ever tried to sit upright in a chair like that? Your chairs are perfect! No slanted back!
Hallelujah! I’m thrilled to hear we might get some smaller scale pieces to work with.
I have a secret love affair with chairs (don’t tell my husband). I’ve had to stop myself from bringing home all the “special” ones I’d meet in my travels.
I love your chubby FUBBBS pin, btw. Fun post.
I wonder what you think of this Cisco chair? https://ciscohome.net/collections/chairs/products/alma-mininchair
It’s beautiful, Sabrina. Love Cisco Bros. furniture.
I like Kim Salmela club chairs sold on OKL.
Laurel, could you comment on using swivel chairs is a setting where there is a tv? Also, have you ever seen club chairs converted to swivels and reupholstered to cover the swivel.
Thanks for making me LOL! I was just looking at club chairs online today and though some are attractive from the front the profiles look like mini fridges. I discovered that Calico Home (formerly Calico Corners) also carries some Lee Industries chairs and they will tell you which styles they are. The challenge for many of us is the depth of club chairs. I will also only buy spring/ down furniture and I love Taylor King.
HaHa, enjoyed your post so much! I agree with the others, I too have been looking for two new chairs for my living room. Thank you so much for this information! Happy new year!
Hi Laurel, Your new home is lovely. Please share your wall and trim color. BEAUTIFUL!
Thank you. Pam
I’m not 100% sure. I didn’t paint it. The can in the storage locker says classic gray for the walls. And, the trim, I don’t know.
What’s your opinion on Bergere chairs? Particularly flanking a fireplace.
Thank you for this post – perfect timing! I am searching for beautifully proportioned chairs for my living room. Seems everything I like is from England! That George Sherlock chair is ooooh la la.
Another designer I’ve been eyeing is John Derian for Cisco brothers and Ben Pentreath’s Bloomsbury chair. Love those taller tapered legs with casters. I do hope that this is developing into a trend! Thanks for the sources.
We purchased Lee Industries sofa, loveseat, club chair and ottoman in 1983 when we bought our co-op in Park Slope. Four moves later they have been slipcovered twice and are as comfortable as the day they were purchased.
I knew I saved my mom’s and my MIL’s old chairs and had them recovered and slipcovered all these years. YES
Thanks for the Silva Furniture tip. There is also a Silva in North Carolina, USA. Are they different companies?
Kristin, Look in second hand, thrift, antique shops, and craigslist. I see them regularly at places like that. I have two stationary club chairs passed down through a few generations that I added a swivel base to them. (chairpartsonline.com) Easy DIY for that part. Then I had them reupholstered to have a waterfall skirt to hide the new swivel. They are perfect in front of our fireplace. Good Luck in your search
Another tall person here who loves an elegant chair but abhors, abhors a low seat height. I bought the most beautiful vintage chair online once without checking the measurements (stupid) and when it arrived I thought it must have been made for children.
The smaller chairs are beautiful, but at 5’ 8 1/2” I am the shortest person in our family. Most of the others are well over 6’. It’s very hard to find beautiful chairs that fit us and don’t take over the room.
I frequent a consignment store that sells high end furniture. Found his and hers Bergere chairs that are small which is perfect for my 5’1″ frame. $150 for the pair. Getting them recovered. Some consignment stores have beautiful things if you have a tighter budget.
You might want to look at the Canadian company Silva who are based in Toronto. They make a lot of smaller profile chairs. I have two myself that are about 7 years old and they are still super comfortable. Great hardwood construction. A lot of people still live in smaller homes, especially if living in a downtown location and many of the condos are super small so small profile furniture is essential. Anyway,Silva is a great company. Beautiful workmanship in the chairs and reasonably priced.
I was so excited when I saw that this was going to be about smaller furniture trends. Then I saw the photos. How do you sit in ANY of these club chairs?? I am 5’5. Not really short or tall, but about average height for a woman. I can not find a chair where I can sit properly and have my feet touch the ground. I look like the letter C with a curved back all slumped down so that my feet touch the ground. Why do chairs and sofas have to be so deep? I have added lumbar pillows and large 22 inch square pillows but eventually I’m back to a C. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
My most comfortable chairs were bought on ebay for all of $75 each; I think they are vintage Hendredon.
They are small in scale, low to the ground, slightly curved back, the seat has spring and down cushions. They needed re-upholstering, and since I added a skirt, I had casters added to the legs to raise the chairs, and make them taller. They are super comfortable.
Love that. Some of the best furniture I’ve ever seen is left for free on the sidewalks of NYC!
Really enjoyed this eclectic post, Laurel. What a glorioiusly beautiful, talented young man!
And that woman is thinking “What a great joke. You have no idea how much I’m being paid to wear this monstrosity.’
RE your white floor: What about the classic wish-for-a-different-floor solution? I.E. huge white rug covering most of floor with pretty rug on top.
Love your mock up of your new home.
Not only do I hope the industry does start designing, smaller furniture, but better! They can start w the legs. Even designer-To-The-Trade-Only on $$$ price range (I can only afford to look at in photos) seem to have forgotten legs. Ever notice a nice, lovely shape that’s sitting on top of 4 chunky pieces of sticks that have NO relation to the design itself! Here’s to being hopeful!
I do wish smaller scale furniture will come back in favor. My historic house does not lend itself to gigantic, overblown, ill-made, puffy furniture and it’s difficult to find stylish, well-made pieces that fit within a modest budget. Here’s to hoping!
Great post! I am 61 years old, and I have a child sized club chair my parents got me when I was seven. It has been reupholstered several times, but it’s still the great reading chair I enjoyed as a child. I don’t fit in it quite the same though😏
Hi Laurel, I see buying this type of chair in my future, so you have given a lot of valuable background and fine points on what to look for. And as usual, many caveats and tips from the comments.
p.s. I hate bloated furniture!
Yes, bloated is the word. I guess I failed to mention but should have that smaller furniture doesn’t necessarily mean less comfortable. It’s just taking up less real estate because of the lack of bloat if that makes sense.
Laurel, I wonder if even the George Smith chairs made today are of the same quality they were 10, 20 years ago. Interior Designer Jan Moyer posted on a Houzz response to me that the Barbara Barry 15 yr. loveseat I almost bought (hubs wasn’t crazy about it, couldn’t get past the white trim which would have been redone nor understand the VALUE of paying $$ to redo item) was better made than a new one today. So despite the high shipping costs its Chairish for me! You’re SO lucky–you live close to where a LOT of Chairish items come from! I’m at the bottom here in N.O. Oh and congrats on Boston! A BEAUTIFUL CITY–just cold in the winter!
Yes, Chairish long distance shipping charges are hefty if one isn’t local and can’t pick it up.
So timely, I’m looking for a small camel back sofa with rolled arms. Most of the sofas are big, boxy squares, they all look alike except for color/fabric. Even the few camel backs I’ve found are huge.. Some say the thrill is in the hunt, so I guess I’m being thrilled.
Thank you Laurel and all the helpful posters.
Ug to all of those! They require a tall person and one cannot lean back to support your back as they tilt further back, so it’s a very uncomfortable position.
I’m loving the smaller rounded cozy chairs with a seating area that fits us more petite ladies!!
Funny, some of you say short, some say tall. I say, try it out first and if necessary support your back with pillows. Of course, one man’s candy is another man’s poison. Plus, there are beautiful chairs that are a little larger than the ones shown. Chairs like the ones I showed from Serena & Lily, made by Lee Industries, for example.
I got a small scale swivel chair from William Sonoma Home last year. It’s upholstered in Performance Linen so cleans easily.
Thanks for your post even when you are going through an adjustment in a new place! I look for your post every day even though I know you don’t post every day. I can appreciate all styles if done right, but my favorite is traditional with a little modern touches. There are few bloggers who still do traditional. I so love reading your post!
I noticed in your new home you have some French side chairs. They are beautiful. I was wondering if you just bought them. Also, did you carry your big Cotton Balls- BM painted cabinet that was in your living room? I love that cabinet!
Have a nice day!
I really need a secretary. I’m just trying to tell myself that it will all get done, but changing states is the biggest issue, plus there’s medicare, my car, on and on…
I have a pair of Lee Industries roll arm club chairs that I bought in 1990. Does that make them vintage? They are on their third fabric and I’m about to change it again. The graceful shape and comfort are so classic- never plan on parting with them! It really does pay to purchase good furniture that isn’t faddish. I also have a wing chair from 1980 that’s been reupholstered many times and is sturdy as ever.
Some of us like larger chairs because we have a little dog(or two) that likes to snuggle next to us!
awwww… there are exceptions for everything!
This is a well-timed post for me, as I’ve spent the week looking for non-awful small-scale upholstered chairs that swivel. I have a spot where a swivel would be really helpful, as it would allow guests to either face the fireplace or turn so they can chat with someone cooking in the kitchen. So far I’ve had fairly terrible luck, but the search continues…
I am intrigued by the idea someone mentioned above of adding casters to an existing, fairly low chair. I wonder if that would accomplish the same purpose?
I LOVE YOUR NEW PLACE…gorgeous…and I have 4 slipper chairs in my home and they are wonderful…Two in velvet and two in a linen…..
People are a bigger today than they were even 50 years ago. And most of them are looking for comfortable furnishings. Something they can lounge in. Time will tell if smaller pieces take hold.
Well, it’s like a woman who’s having a baby. haha It’s how big she is on the inside that counts, not the outside. In other words, a smaller chair might not sit any differently than its bloated counterpart. There’s just more stuffing and bigger bones.
I too am 70. The deep seat and slanted back is so not comfortable. But I love the style of smaller chairs and have 2 antique chairs recovered in a small tweed with velvet backs and sides. Love them.
Laurel, thank you for this post full of information and inspiration! I really dislike the big pieces too. Frankly, it is difficult to find affordable pieces with elegant lines. So we have IKEA mixed with older inherited pieces. They need to be reupholstered. We will not replace these classics!
As Americans grow ever fatter, chairs have followed…sigh. Hopefully a return to sanity in the styling of club chairs will encourage people to get out of their bloated chairs and get some exercise so they can fit into a sleeker chair (and spend less time in it).
Ballet, pilates…go for it!
I give two thumbs down to nailhead trim and fringe at the bottom of upholstered furniture.
Don’t worry, cute friend, it’s going to ALL be okay!
Thank you for your hard work, Laurel! You’re a jewel!
I totally agree with you about the scale of the furniture that has been produced over the past few decades. Could that be why at a local furniture store in my area there is a sign above the door that reads “please measure carefully, items appear smaller in our showroom?” A few years ago I worked on a project where my clients wanted 2 chairs for their living room that sat entirely on an area rug. They had 44″ on each side of the coffee table (which they did not want to replace). I searched and searched at retail but most of the chairs were so deep and oversized, we could not find anything to work. I finally resorted to Craig’s List where a found 2 beat-up vintage chairs that were wildly comfortable and only 28″ deep. We had the frames painted, put them on large casters to raise them up a bit and had them recovered. Not only did they look great, they are solid wood like you cannot buy today, totally unique and just the right scale. I wish today’s manufacturers would realize that not everyone (actually not many) live in homes that will accommodate all the huge furniture they produce. Love your blog!
Nice post…though hard to adapt to a modern southwest style…but I’m sure it could be done. Have you checked out the guilty pleasure of Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things”? A ballet soap opera type series. Beautiful dancing!
I agree with you entirely, Laurel, on the need for smaller-scale furniture, particularly chairs. For those looking for second-hand things, I recommend anything produced BEFORE 2019 by the English company Wesley Barrell, a family business over 120 years old. I have a small wing chair from them, bought in the 1980s, and it is still in excellent condition, although the Manuel Canovas upholstery fabric has faded quite a bit (as I knew it would). Sadly the company was sold in 2019 and its replacement, W B Interiors, is a disaster apparently run by a very unsavoury asset stripper. Hence the warning!
But as I’m over 70, I don’t want deep armchairs or seats which tilt backwards as I find them seriously uncomfortable. In fact, almost the most comfortable armchair we have now is a Consulat armchair which I bought in the flea market and re-upholstered myself, re-doing webbing, stuffing with horsehair plus a thin layer of batting and finishing with grey velvet! Worth looking at older antiques, I think.
The timing of this post is uncanny, as just two weeks ago I took delivery of two English Roll arm lounge chairs from Hickory Chair. I specifically chose their Haydon model because of the profile (that actually recalls the Howard and Sons chairs Laurel posted): tapered feet on casters at the front, shorter carved feet at the rear, and a frame that beautifully sweeps down to connect the two. I ordered them in Brunschwig & Fils’ blue Les Touches to go with my blue and white color scheme and give a bit of pop, and I couldn’t be happier with the contrast between the trad shape and mod fabric. If the fabric ever comes off backorder, they will be joined by the corresponding Haydon sofa in solid blue Crypton.
Also: Laurel, thank you so much for all the effort you’ve put into the blog over the years; as I’ve been decorating my first house, your wisdom has been instrumental in shaping my taste and opening my eyes to the kind of interior design that I love.