Decorating Ideas

The Essential Guide to the Wingback Chair

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Rooted in practicality and a stylish addition to libraries or formal living rooms for centuries, the wingback chair is a classic worth revisiting for today’s home. Striking, sensible, and überversatile, these winged wonders can be used in so many ways around your home.

Worried that a pair of wingback chairs by the fireplace will feel too traditional? Choose two that complement each other rather than perfectly match. Photo by Nicole LaMotte. 

Worried that a pair of wingback chairs by the fireplace will feel too traditional? Choose two that complement each other rather than perfectly match. Photo by Nicole LaMotte. 

Next to Your Fireplace

Angled in front of a working fireplace, these chairs will function as they were originally intended when invented in 17th-century England: to shield you from the direct heat of the fire as well as from any drafts. And even if your fireplace doesn’t function, draw attention to pretty detailing or a well-styled mantel by flanking it with a pair of chairs. You can always bring the heat with a bold upholstery choice.

Set away from the main living area, this pair of chairs creates a spot for cozy conversations or always-welcome me time.

Set away from the main living area, this pair of chairs creates a spot for cozy conversations or always-welcome me time.

To Warm Up Your Entryway

A wingback placed in a foyer signals to all who enter that this is a cozy, comfy house where you can sit back, relax, and stay awhile. Plus it’s always nice to have a spot on which to perch while taking off shoes or putting them on. 

To Create a Reading Nook

Thanks to its height and stately presence, a single chair can give purpose to a hard-to-define space. For instance, a little-used corner of a room becomes a reading nook when a wingback is accompanied by a floor lamp and a petite side table. 

Leather chairs like these channeled wingbacks will gain a warm patina over time. These are also available in black velvet.

Leather chairs like these channeled wingbacks will gain a warm patina over time. These are also available in black velvet.

In Lieu of Dining Chairs 

If you dig the look of mix-and-match seats (or your table fits eight, but you fell in love with a set of six you just couldn’t pass up), consider subbing in a pair of wingbacks at the head and foot of the table. Their voluptuous silhouettes are a fun juxtaposition against the leaner lines of more-traditional dining chairs, drawing your eyes outward and making the room seem wider.

An ottoman at the foot of the bed often becomes more of a storage piece than a place to sit. That’s why you can’t go wrong tucking a chair in a corner of your bedroom. Design by and photo courtesy of Philip Mitchell.

An ottoman at the foot of the bed often becomes more of a storage piece than a place to sit. That’s why you can’t go wrong tucking a chair in a corner of your bedroom. Design by and photo courtesy of Philip Mitchell.

As a Bedroom Accent

There’s something about these chairs that screams boudoir. If you’re lucky enough to have a spacious closet, stick it in there, and you’ll be sitting pretty while slipping on your shoes. Or create a lounge area in one corner of your room that’s perfect for curling up with a good book. Feminine versions of this chair play well with luxe run-your-toes-through-them rugs, upholstered accents such as headboards or ottomans, and sexy light fixtures.

Wingback chairs made of rattan or bamboo give an unexpected airiness to the stately silhouette.

Wingback chairs made of rattan or bamboo give an unexpected airiness to the stately silhouette.

Doubled Up in Your Living Room 

There’s power in numbers: Make a distinct design statement by placing twin chairs side by side in your living or TV room. Topping them with a pair of matching pillows will further drive the point home. Generally speaking, when used in the middle of a space, lower-back designs don’t break up the flow of the room; taller versions should be left to room edges and corners.

The high back and the ample cushioning make a wingback chair a comfy and chic desk companion. Photo by Nicole LaMotte.

The high back and the ample cushioning make a wingback chair a comfy and chic desk companion. Photo by Nicole LaMotte.

As a Stand-In for a Desk Chair

A wingback chair can make an eye-catching desk companion. It not only looks impressive, but it’s also a comfortable place to park yourself while working. And the curves play well against the desk’s lines and angles. Find a seat with low-enough armrests to allow you to belly up comfortably to your paperwork.

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