Tra­di­tional wing chairs with mod­ern twist

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - KIM COOK

No mat­ter how old you are, you might have grown up in a home with a wing chair.

This clas­sic chair dates back a lot farther than any of us, ac­cord­ing to Bro­nia Suszczenia, co-founder of the York­shire, England-based in­te­rior de­sign firm Art from the Start. “The first wing chair ap­peared in the late 1600s, but it was not un­til af­ter 1720 that its pop­u­lar­ity be­came wide­spread,” she says.

Why the wings? A clue may be in the chair’s al­ter­nate name, fire­side chair. The idea was that the wings pro­tected you from drafts, while the roomy, up­hol­stered seat was a cosy spot from which to en­joy a cheery blaze.

The wing chair’s en­dur­ing ap­peal is its com­fort­able, con­vivial na­ture and its use­ful­ness, says New York de­signer Char­lotte Moss.

“It’s the quin­tes­sen­tial easy chair. It in­vites curl­ing up and kick­ing back,” she says. “And they’re won­der­fully ver­sa­tile. I like to use them at the heads of din­ing ta­bles, or in a cosy cor­ner with an ot­toman, or two fac­ing each other with a fire­place in be­tween.”

To­day’s de­sign­ers are hav­ing some fun with this clas­sic style, tweak­ing its curvy sil­hou­ette, go­ing wild or woolly with up­hol­stery, and up­dat­ing the legs in dif­fer­ent colours or ma­te­ri­als.

Pot­tery Barn’s Hayes wing chair, for ex­am­ple, has a bar­rel-curved back and low-pro­file arms, so you can tuck your feet up. The smaller-scaled Man­ning chair, in a cream-hued fab­ric, sports chic con­tem­po­rary but­ton tuft­ing; it’d be a nice choice for a mas­ter bed­room. (www.pot­tery­ )

Mitchell Gold and Bob Wil­liams’ Em­met chair hy­bridizes a wing and club chair. In but­tery, ani­line leather, it’s a wel­com­ing spot to set­tle. (www.mgb­ )

At Rove Con­cepts, Dan­ish mod­ern de­signer Hans Weg­ner’s clas­sic Wing chair is of­fered in leathers and cash­mere, tweed and bouclé wool. (www.rovecon­ )

An ex­ag­ger­ated wing­back and arms char­ac­ter­ize Weg­ner’s 1951 Papa chair. He named it for its dis­tinc­tive sculp­tural arms, which re­sem­ble a bear’s paws. France and Son of­fers it in fun hues like or­ange, teal blue and olive. (www.france­and­ )

Arne Ja­cob­sen’s iconic Egg chair for Fritz Hansen (avail­able at De­sign Within Reach) is a biomor­phic take on the wing chair; its fluid curves and swivel base have kept it a favourite of mod­ernist afi­ciona­dos for al­most 60 years. ( )

Tom Dixon’s Wing­back col­lec­tion is the Bri­tish de­signer’s up­date on the wing chair and its 18th cen­tury cousin, the bal­loon back. The chairs and so­fas have a sexy swag­ger, in lus­cious Kvadrat fab­ric up­hol­stery and ebony or blond oak legs. ( )

The an­gles of Ital­ian mid­cen­tury de­sign in­spire West Elm’s new Mar­celle wing chair, with dra­mat­i­cally scaled ani­line leather wings and arms. The Hem­ming swivel chair nods to clas­sic Dan­ish de­sign, with a low-slung and roomy seat, en­velop­ing high back and wings. Two new colours: rich caramel-toned sad­dle, and an inky Aegean blue. (www.west­ )

Toronto firm Pow­ell & Bon­nell’s Chatsworth read­ing chair takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. The chair is arm­less, and sleek planes form the wings, giv­ing the piece an ur­bane so­phis­ti­ca­tion. (www.powelland­bon­ )

Tov Fur­ni­ture’s Gramercy wing chair, up­hol­stered in a luxe, gold­en­toned, croc­o­dile-printed vel­vet, shows off a sexy set of faceted Lucite legs. (www.tov­fur­ni­ )

With a nod to mid-cen­tury mod­ern style, the Wells swivel chair in­cor­po­rates clas­sic de­tail­ing like tuft­ing and the wing sil­hou­ette.

The Man­ning from Pot­tery Barn. Slim pro­filed yet com­fort­able, it’s a so­phis­ti­cated mod­ern take on the tra­di­tional wing chair.

West Elm’s Mar­celle wing chair is a mod­ern it­er­a­tion of the clas­sic.

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