Elana Safronsky, Managing Editor
Friday, May 1, 2009 2:59 PM EDT
If we are to heed the advice of lifestyle coaches and pleasure gurus and actually sit down to thoroughly enjoy our meals -- at home -- the state of our eating areas cannot be ignored. I say 'eating areas' because in this age of alternative space, a traditional dining room is no longer de rigeur with respect to how we divide our living space. Thanks to the sweeping popularity of open concept, we now have maximum freedom with how and where we choose to set up our dining space. But this freedom brings with it the need for an extra level of design savvy -- alternative eating areas often require greater consideration with respect to how they are integrated into the surrounding space. Essentially, this means a matchy matchy dining room set will no longer do. (In fact, even if your layout does include a traditional dining room, I'm not a fan of the 'out-of-the-box' dining set anyway.) Character is the name of the game, and if you are to take my humble advice, character is a lot easier achieved through your choice of chairs rather than tables.
To put it simply, I've always stuck to the simple-table-interesting-chairs rule, when trying to achieve any type of dining "look".
Today's Top 5 Friday is all about my favourite chairs and chair styles, that are guaranteed to give not just your dining area, but the rest of the surrounding space instant character. These are five chairs around which you can easily decorate an entire house!
The Bertoia Wire side chair from Knoll; interior from the former Domino magazine, via Pure Green Design blog.
Harry Bertoia, an Italian born artist and midcentury modern furniture designer gave us one of the most generous dining chairs to ever hatch from the design community: the Bertoia Wire side chair, designed for and produced by Knoll in the early 1950s. Although a relatively simple search can yield you a vintage original, the Bertoia Wire side chair is still in production today, and buying new can often save you the headache of finding your desired amount of matching chairs. Available at Knoll (formidable 'interpretations' for less $ abound) in a great collection of colours, the airy wire seat dissolves into any space beautifully, making these perfect for small spaces, as well as to balance out a hefty table. The above interior form the former mag Domino shows it paired with a simple Victorian table for some lovely contrast. They're super comfortable btw, and if your tushie needs it, leather padded seat cushions are also available.
The Parisian Cafe Chair
Interior image from House and Garden via The Little Big House blog; Bistro chairs from TK Collections.
These are admittedly hard to find, but not impossible by any means. I LOVE them. If you shake up your style just a little bit, these can add romance to absolutely any room, be it a traditional French cafe feel, or one with simple modern lines. (By 'shake it up' I mean, you can't put these in a totally conservative, traditional home. You don't need to try hard, but these chairs do require a little bit of surrounding flare.) They're just so pretty and evocative on their own, that you can clobber yourself a table of plywood sheathed in a simple linen table cloth, and you'll never want to leave. They're also great as occasional chairs and especially lovely outdoors - drag them out on the deck or balcony in the summer! (With pretty clay pots and lots of Toile.)
The Square Linen Slip Cover
Interior image via Decor Pad blog; slip covered Miles side chair from Crate & Barrel; white slip covered Miles side chair from Crate & Barrel.
Try as I might, I simply cannot hide my fabric snobbery. Slip covers can go oh so very wrong so easily, so much so that I felt the need to put the strongly suggested fabric of choice in the title. You can use linen, linen, or linen. But if you simply must be practical and use a less pocket-gouging, decidedly more durable fabric, you can try a linen-poly blend, or a cotton duck/muslin fabric. As for the shape, the square, tall back such as that of the Miles side chair from Crate & Barrel (pictured above) offers the most impact. The more elaborate the shape of the chair, the more limited your choice of fabric patterns becomes (personally, I would not ever stray from solid white, dove grey, dusty blue or navy.) I love how easily you can pair these with a pair of ornate armchairs (above) and the fact that you can get away with a cheap chair so that you can splurge on beautiful fabric. Simple, sophisticated formality that can be easily improvised.
The Asian Chippendale
Jonathan Adler Chippendale Chair; Adler Chippendale Chair pictured in interior image, via Porch Light Interiors blog.
Oh I know that to many of you these must look familiar. If your parents have these -- and they very well may, just not necessarily Chippendale -- tell them it's time to redecorate, and stuff them in the back of your van. If you are those parents, don't fall for it. Dust them off, give them a fresh coat of cheery paint, and rip that fussy, bland fabric off the seats in favuor of some nice LINEN in a natural colour or a swimming floral. As my rule of choice dictates, these do best with a plain rectangular table with finer lines (no big harvest tables), something perhaps with a lacquer finish and/or a barely-there metal -- steel, bronze, brass -- base. A chair with undeniable attitude and glam, you've got to tone down the colour and fabric if you want these to behave in a simple space. Although the bamboo pattern of the backs may end up on my 'store' list for next year's design trends, when it comes to these showstoppers, they can do no wrong in my eyes. FYI, modern versions can be easily found, and affordable modern versions if you look a little harder.
Clockwise from the top; image by brocantegirl via Genuine Style; Bordeaux dining chair from Simply Chic; French dining chair from Nicky Cornell; interior image from Veranda magazine.
SO wrong for the times, but who cares! We must be allowed our dreams and aspirations. Surely you're rolling your eyes at the gorgeous spaces pictured above, but just imagine these around a simple round oak table or one of the ubiquitous rectangular harvest tables in any lightly painted square room, (If you're lucky enough to have an oval room or an orangerie, my apologies) -- how can you go wrong? The good thing is, like much of this type of French antiques (Louis the Whatever) the decades between the 50s through to the 80s left us some gaudy, speckled versions that you can get your hands on and rework, for less than the furniture budget of Versailles. Again, my advice would be to keep the frame and fabric colours neutral, especially if you're dealing with less than formidable antiques.
Can you tell I'm passionate about dining chairs? (Was that unbearably long?) As usual, I'd love to know what you think!