Wingback chairs have evolved since Thomas Chippendale’s original design in the 1600s. Despite its classic lines, this regal, tall-back seating isn’t limited to traditional interior design.
Nowadays, wingback chairs can boast a sleek, retro or even a futuristic form, with updated versions finding places in rooms of all styles.
“Wingback chairs are statement pieces,” said Megan Dufresne, principal designer at MC Design in Los Angeles. “They offer a strong silhouette, are sturdy and comfortable and, with the right styling choices, can be incorporated into a variety of spaces.”
Four designers share their thoughts on integrating modern-day wingback chairs into living spaces.
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Pair With Complementary Shapes and Scale
“With a bit of updating and fabric choice, these chairs can be great additions to contemporary homes. I tend to look for complementary shapes and aim to balance them with other furniture that matches their scale. More important than the height of the back is the overall visual weight and shape of the chairs.
“The right wingback chair can be used in just about any room if done right. A couple of my favorite sources are Restoration Hardware/RH Modern or Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
“In [one] case, bringing the typically traditional wingback chair into a contemporary living room required a bit of updating. We chose swivel versions of a wing chair, the RH Luke Swivel chair and recovered them in a Great Outdoors bouclé fabric from Holly Hunt. This allowed the chairs, which have a slight ’70s vibe, to fit in with the rest of the design and create a cohesive look for the room.”
—Megan Dufresne, MC Design in Los Angeles
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Celebrate the Height in Tall Spaces
“A wingback chair conjures a feeling of coziness and creates a nook feeling when it’s placed in a room. They work well in spaces with high ceilings or in corners where their height does not close off a seating area or block the view. Twenty First Gallery has some stunning options like the Erwan Boulloud Kàmptô Chair.
“Wing chairs are very versatile and, whether vintage or contemporary, lend themselves to both austere or more eclectic fabrics. Sometimes, a buttery leather is nice because it will patina over time.”
—Jessica Iwaniec, design director at Pembrooke & Ives in New York
Combine With Traditional, Primitive or Industrial Elements
“Wingback chairs exude comfort. They are large and almost seem to give you a hug when you sit down. We often use them as anchors in a room. I like them for reading or napping, so try a pair of them in front of a window in a family room, in the corner of a bedroom or near a fireplace.
“If you have a contemporary wing chair, try pairing it with something more traditional, primitive or industrial. The mix will keep things feeling interesting and more personal. For something mid-century inspired, I like the Gio Lounge by Kimberly Denman; and for something contemporary, I like the Ro Lounge Chair by Jaime Hayon.
“If you’re looking to add pattern to a room, a wing chair is a perfect opportunity to pack some punch and personality. If you want to emphasize the shape of the wing chair, try a neutral fabric with a dark contrasting welt.”
—Designer Gideon Mendelson in New York
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Ground the Room With an Elegant Wing Chair
“I love the noble wingback chair. It has a classic, bookish, masculine, ‘grandpa smoking his pipe’ spirit. This makes it great for an interior where you want to mix traditional with modern. If your space needs some grounding and you want to make a spot feel more bookish, intelligent or worldly, add a wing chair.
“They are strong, independent accent pieces. For example, in a darker, sophisticated space, I see it in a bright, playful color such as yellow or orange. Because of the strong sculptural form of a wingback, bold colors can make them feel super modern. In contrast to their voluminous form, a delicate, but sturdy bronze and cast glass table is the right pairing next to a wingback and a glowing reading lamp, of course.
“Tom Dixon designed my absolute favorite wing chair. Tom’s chair is so statuesque. It cuts a gorgeous silhouette from any direction, sending a message of grace, intelligence and tradition. We chose the Babyletto Kiwi Grey Power Recliner for this nursery because it has a high back and it could fill the corner. It’s as comfortable as it is elegant.”
—Designer Sabra Ballon in San Francisco
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