I love the blog and have been a fan for years. One item I’ve never seen you cover is “swivel chairs.” I want to use a pair of chairs in my living room that could face the couch for conversation and turn for TV watching. Got any ideas?
Thank you, Liz, for reminding me that I’ve wanted to do a post on swivel chairs, including swivel gliders, as well.
I’ll never forget my one long-distance client in 2015 telling me.
But, Laurel, you don’t understand. We NEED our swivel chairs. Or better yet. Swivel gliders.”
What was funny was I didn’t disagree with her in the slightest, only saying that there aren’t a lot of great ones in the marketplace.
However, we DID find some gorgeous swivel glider chairs from Lee Industries, as you can see below.
To see more of this gorgeous custom home in Kentucky, please go here.
Of course, I aim to please, and I have many swivel chairs for you to see– LATER. ;]
But, first. Does anyone know when the first swivel chair was invented and who invented it?
Maggie, I saw your hand up first.
That’s an excellent guess, and he did design a swivel chair, but he wasn’t the first.
Nancy, I believe I saw you next
Oh, terrific answer, but again he wasn’t the originator of the swivel chair.
Michelle, would you like to take a stab at it?
Charles and Ray Eames?
Gosh, you guys really know your mid-century giants of modern furniture design. But, no, the earliest concept for the swivel chair was in the mid 16th century.
Kodex_Löffelholz_-_Biblioteka_Jagiellońska_Ms_Berol_Germ via Wikipedia
Believe me, I didn’t know the answer either, until I researched it.
However, the first person that is known to have created the first swivel chair, by modifying a Windsor chair… is our very own neo-classical architect extraordinaire, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third president of the United States of America:
Thomas (No Middle Name) Jefferson
I can’t say I’m surprised; genius, that he was. In fact, it has been reported that Thomas wrote much of the D.O. Independence sitting in his homemade swivel chair. (below)
Swivel Windsor Chair with Writing Arm by Thomas Jefferson
Of course, these early swivel chairs were not anything we’d use in our living room. They were the precursor to the common swivel desk chair.
The modern swivel chairs we might put in a living room were a 20th-century invention. They became increasingly popular after the invention of the TV.
Milo Baughman was an incredibly prolific designer of these types of barrel swivel chairs.
You can find vintage, new, and knock-off versions at numerous sources.
Above is a fun Milo Baughman knock-off at World Market for only $500!
Below is a small widget of vintage swivel chairs. Many of them are by or in the manner of Milo Baughman.
There is a widget below with a link to the source as they are also currently for sale.
The swivel chairs above are very interesting because there’s something that I’ve never seen before in a swivel chair.
Apparently, the mechanism is far enough inside that we can’t see it. At least not at this angle.
But, when we hit the late 80s, and onward, swivel chairs fell prey to the same disease as other upholstered furniture.
You know… We were just discussing the big, bulky, bloated furniture still popular in the furniture marketplace. I don’t think it’s popular with most A-List designers, however.
The problem in the case of swivel chairs is exaggerated when there is a regular back which then gets upholstered down to the floor.
In my opinion, most of these chairs look particularly strange, like someone forgot to attach the legs.
Remember the legless sheep around the dining table?
Swivel chairs, along with swivel gliders, swivel rockers, and recliner chairs, belong to a classification known in the industry as “motion” for obvious reasons.
Are there chairs that swivel, glide, rock, and recline?
Do I recommend them?
Quite honestly, I don’t know. Most commonly, these chairs are used in a baby’s nursery. Although, some could be used in any room. I’ve not seen any high-end living room-type swivel chairs that do all four things. However, I’m not 100% sure if they exist or not.
Okay, this is my feeling about swivel chairs from an aesthetic point of view.
We’re assuming that they work as intended. As is the case with their first cousins, the recliner chair, I think that Swivel Chairs in the manner of (non-swiveling) TRADITIONAL chairs should look like traditional (classical) chairs.
And, the way to do that is by hiding any evidence of them not having legs, with a skirt.
This is not an absolute. However, I do love swivel chairs and swivel glider chairs where one cannot tell that they perform this function until sitting in it.
This chair from PB, above, has no pitch, which gives it a boxy, bulky look.
The Irving Roll arm upholstered armchair is also from Pottery Barn. It’s long been one of my favorite little club chairs that sits very nicely. And, it has gorgeous lines, including a beautiful pitch of the back. However, I hate, hate, hate seeing the metal mechanism on the bottom.
But, what if this chair was slipcovered? I don’t believe PB makes a slipcover for this chair. However, that doesn’t mean one couldn’t be made. In the link above is at least one source, maybe more for custom slipcovers. And, there are more in the Etsy Guide, which was newly updated last November.
I did a little virtual slipcover. I love it!
@Audreywhiteinteriors on Instagram-boy’s bedroom swivel chair – This is a super pretty swivel chair from Ballard Designs
The Faye Slipcover Swivel Chair is on sale at Perigold. It’s love this version of the classic barrel chair.
The next few swivel chairs are from Serena & Lily, and you can find their links in the widget near the bottom of the post.
Hattie – Swivel Glider Chair -29”W x 35”D x 34”H from Serena & Lily.
Grady swivel glider chair – Serena & Lily
Love these stylish swivel chairs, also from Serena & Lily.
Laurel, you’ve been talking too much; you need to have a time out and go and sit in the swivel chair in the corner– quietly.
Okay, no problem. I’ll go and sit in the corner. ;]
Mark D Sikes did similar chairs in this project. I don’t know if they are swivel chairs or not, but they could be.
Below is a big widget with descriptions of about 24 swivel chairs. In front, you’ll see a letter or two letters which stand for as follows.
c = cheap
mc = medium cheap
m = medium
me = medium expensive
e = expensive.
I hope you enjoyed these swivel and swivel glider chairs.
You might be wondering if you can mix the modern barrel chairs in a more traditional room. I say, YES! I’m sure I’ve seen that done, but I think modern accents are terrific in traditional spaces. I always think of the 80/20 rule. 80% trad, 20% modern, or vice-versa.
If you follow that, you’ll always get the mix right. It could also be 90/10. But, I would never do 50/50.
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Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES! President’s Weekend is coming up, and the sales are heating big time!
The timing for this post was perfect for me. I’m a new grandma to a beautiful baby girl. I have a very basic guest bedroom (white walls, queen bed, and dresser) that I want to decorate in soft feminine shades of pink and call it Bea’s room :-). I needed a chair in the room so I was looking at swivel rocking chairs. So I just ordered the Elsie Swivel Glider Club Chair from your widget in the Suzanne Kasler linen blush fabric. I ordered a fabric swatch first; it’s not really a pink, but I love it! It’s probably not very practical for little ones, but did I mention that I love it? It is the color I am working around for the rest of the decor in the room. Thank you for this very timely post!
I love your 80/20 rule. And thank you for finding some swivel chairs that are not completely hideous!
Somehow Laurel you always know what I’m up to with my decor and manage to post a spot on blog post about it. I just bought two beautiful Lillian August swivel chairs for my family room at Home Goods for $350 each!!! They only get one offs (or in this case two), so you have to check frequently, but it’s the same store where I saw the lavender Spitzmiller lamp pair for under $100 each (I just spotted that exact lamp for $1100each online). Too bad we can’t put pictures in the comment section 🤪. I have expensive taste and a small budget. But if I’m patient, things turn up! Thanks for all the great information 😊
Thank you Laurel, for a terrific idea!
I have an Irving swivel glider that I purchased 2 years ago. Because I use it every day, the seat cushion is likely to wear out before the rest of the chair. Trying to match the leather would probably be hopeless, but a slipcover would be fantastic, and would also conceal the rather unattractive base of the chair.
I love your blog.
I see swivel chairs pretty frequently at Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I had one reupholstered in a black and white small print abstract fabric and I just love it! The chair was $35 and the reupholstery was $600.
Hi Laurel, thank you for another wonderful post. You always give so much extra interesting information with each topic you cover. I inherited a pair of hickory chair club chairs from my aunt. I think the ticket we found stapled to the bottom was from 1974. I loved the shape and down filled cushions but the upholstery needed an update. Before reupholstering them I added a swivel/glider base that I purchased online and then had the upholsterer extended the skirt the extra 2 inches to cover the mechanism. They turned out perfectly and are the most coveted chairs in the house. The swivel/glider mechanism could be attached to any club chair that has a skirt. I completely agree about the chairs that look like the legs were left off, there really must be a skirt.
Judy H – I too look at how their (Pottery Barn) in store models look after awhile. 😁 Even the Tyler in leather doesn’t look so great, but I still drool over it 🤷♀️😄
I’ve always wanted a swivel-glider-rocker. I wonder why so many of these chairs have skimpy, narrow, cheap-looking arms? They are rarely as nice as those on regular armchairs at similar prices. It’s encouraging to see some chars with nicer-looking arms in your widget but lots of them are not designed for resting one’s arms.
Wayfair also has a decent selection of custom swivel chairs with some really nice fabrics. I ordered mine from there. Despite covid related ordering delays last year they managed to ship them out to me in Canada in 8 weeks which was great!
Yes, I know. Five of the swivel chairs in the widget near the bottom of the post are from Wayfair; not that I expected you to click on all of them to find that out.
I have an Ethan Allen Turner swivel in my living room that is so comfortable, for reading and watching TV. We also have a swivel rocker from Best Home Furnishings. They have an amazing variety of seating options. Definitely worth a look!
Hi, finally found the “perfect” swivel-glider. Made by a German co. (Just opened factory in China….of course) called W.Schillig. I ordered them thru Scandinavian Design in tan leather. They are so comfortable, quiet and the mechanism is covered in matching leather.first class but reasonably priced! $1100. Ea approx.
Great – now could you do a post for decent looking and functional desk chairs? One that does not look like an electric chair in death row? For a girl’s/lady’s office with pretty fabric and legs that are not going to eat me? And Oh yes one that really functions for long hours of sitting, and possibly not a million dollars?
I would look at Ballard Designs or Anthropologie, for starters.
I understand! I make slipcovers too when I am tired of my furniture, and between the cussing and the pricked fingers from all those pins, sometimes I question my sanity.
I’m actually in the market for a comfortable glider. Thanks for the informative post.
I have 2 of the Pottery Barn Irving swivel chairs in my keeping room. The swivel mechanism isn’t visible…but they aren’t very comfortable (too low and deep).
Have you tried a throw pillow to make it less deep?
Great article! I had a big gathering and brought in my swivel patio chairs–most popular in the room! Great for conversation. And if you lay out a room just right but have a tv, swivel is the only way to go without lugging furniture around. My sis-in-law got two Steelcase rock, swivel, recline in cranberry leather. They’re the trifecta! Thanks, again.
I actually learned to make my own slipcover from a website – having not sewn a thing since Brownies! It’s not as hard as I thought, and it came out great, but took me two years of starting and stopping (translation = cursing and screaming, on and off). Now that I know what I’m doing, the next one should be easier and faster! LoL
I admire that a lot!
This is a wonderful compilation of swivel chairs. I, too, dislike seeing the metal swivel base. I own 2 of the Vanguard Syms swivel chairs in leather and everyone, regardless of size, loves sitting in them. They are a good option if you don’t want a fabric skirt.
Great post! I inherited a swivel chair made by the modern Stickley company when I bought my condo. Sinfully comfortable but covered in a horrible fabric. Got the price to have a slipcover made and thought it might be worth it to give it a go on my own instead!
I have a swivel chair in my condo like the aqua one in the living room photo. Sweet Pea the cat likes to sleep in it at night. I have it positioned closest to the sliding glass door out onto the porch. Can watch TV from it or swivel to look outdoors into the woods out back. It’s perfect for my condo!!
Thanks for the blog-I think swivels are overlooked when searching for the perfect chair. The versatility is great. I recently purchased one from the MT Company-the Everett and the swivel does not show. love the low pitch.
was so comfortable recently for my daughter in law who is 5’11” and almost 9 months pregnant as well as me as a fellow shortie at 5’2”. Lol
I love the one from World Market! other than that my parents had one from the 60’s. It’s in the basement of their old house, still in perfect condition, someday I will rescue it.
Laurel, I’ve been a fan of Lee Industries furniture for many, many years. I have a loveseat that I purchased in 1990 and used consistently for since and it looks new. Anyway, I am SO proud of myself. I found a Lee Industries swivel glider with down wrapped cushions on FB Marketplace for $20! Of course it is covered with 90’s fabric and I will pay dearly for new upholstery, but it will be worth it to have this gem in my bedroom. Cheers!
I’ve been in love with the Pottery Barn Ayden chair but noticed after months in the store that the chair is slouching and the fabric is pilling.
Does Lee manufacture the Serena & Lily chairs? I love the quality and reliability of Lee; sadly our local store that rep’d Lee has closed.
Love this post subject. I’ve been searching for a lovely swivel recliner no kidding for over 3 years. I’ve been in love with Pottery Barn Tyler in vintage midnight leather w/ nailhead hoping one day it will go swivel & recline but honestly I don’t know if they could pull it off and still make the chair look pretty. Hey if you ever see one, PLEASE let me know! 😁