In praise of the chaise
The subtle art of sprawling in style
Ow-slung furniture might be desirable in the privacy of a media room (‘telly room’ to you and me), but it isn’t necessarily somewhere you’d want to chat to your distinctly chilly neighbours about your contentious planning application or to a teacher who has popped round for a quiet word about your child’s ‘challenging behaviour’ (or whatever the current euphemism is for ‘completely feral and out-of-control’).
Rooms suited to entertaining (and sticky conversations) are rarely suited to lounging. As Nicky Haslam once observed, ‘The point of decoration is to make people look prettier’. Low, capacious, L-shaped sofas do exactly the opposite, rendering even those blessed with the most lithe and elegant physique as lithe and elegant as a sack of potatoes.
In 1800, when Jacques Louis David painted Madame Récamier, the legend-
Lary saloniste and confidante of the French writer, politician and diplomat François-rené de Chateaubriand, she wasn’t flat out on a low, L-shaped sofa but poised and comfortable on a nifty, double-ended Directoire chaise longue. There’s a lesson to be learnt from Madame Récamier’s comportment: namely that comfort and elegance are not mutually exclusive.
Although a 19th-century chaise might be a little camp for hardened modernists, there are plenty of 20th-century incarnations that offer a similarly indulgent feel in a sleeker style. Le Corbusier’s catchily named LC4 that he designed in 1928 has long been the architect’s chaise of choice, but, more recently, it has been reinvented to combine pared-back looks with a more commodious feel.
The most commodious by far is George Smith’s magnificent Brewster Chaise (£4,565, 020—7384 1004; www.georgesmith.com), that artfully combines deep buttoning with a clean, simple profile. Another great example of a new-wave chaise is Tallulah from Love Your Home (£1,125, 01483 410007; www.love-your-home. co.uk). Both would encourage the sort of elegant sprawling of w h i c h Madame Récamier would