A house is not a home without an armchair where you can snuggle up with a good book. Often, we spend so much time looking for sofas and other big-ticket pieces that we don’t think about the possibility of adding an armchair until much later in the decorating process. It is, however, still an investment piece, so it’s worth spending time to find the perfect one for you before making the plunge and purchase. A good armchair should last a lifetime, and maybe even become a future heirloom.
An armchair is also where you can express your individual style, or experiment with different forms or colours. Make a statement with an armchair or two, rather than go matchy-matchy with the rest of your decor. We at Timothy Oulton are a sucker for a good retro chair design, and love to work them into different interior styles. Want to place an ornate antique chair in a minimalist room? Go for it. Mix a farmhouse rustic chair into an urban, industrial-chic decor? Try it. Mid-century chair paired with a chunky antique dresser? Sure, why not? At the end of the day, it’s all about finding harmony and balance between the different pieces and styles – to create a space that is entirely dedicated to one design era would feel contrived, not to mention really rather dull.
Between form, size and material, knowing what to look for in an armchair can seem overwhelming, which is why we’ve prepared a checklist of things you need to consider before committing to one with your credit card.
How to pick the retro chair design that’s right for your home
Wondering where to put your armchair, and how big or small should you go? Here are a few tips:
1. Use masking tape to map out where you might want to place the chair, and assess where and what size is best
2. Leave enough room so that you can comfortably walk around the chair, and avoid crowding your existing furniture
3. Make sure the armchair you want can fit through doors, hallways and lifts to get inside your home
4. Scale and proportion are important – aim for the chair to be of similar height as your sofas
5. If space is limited, go for an armchair with legs rather than a solid base. A lower back will also give the illusion of there being more space than there is
6. Test out the chair in the shop – ensure the back height and seat depth work for you, with your arms comfortably on the armrests and feet on the floor.
How will your armchair be used?
1. Will the chair be used as your reading nook? Consider a high back to support your head, and wide wings that wrap around to maximise comfort. Add a side table, ottoman and floor lamp to make your nook extra inviting
2. Oversized designs are the way to go if you’re looking for a bold way to enliven a full corner
What style and material to go for?
1. Look for inspiration in pop culture – TV, film, fashion, etc – to find the design era for you
2. If in doubt, classic silhouettes always stand the test of time
3. Consider the style of the surrounding furniture – mixing it up is great, but try and find one detail that extends from your existing pieces to your new armchair, whether it’s the fabric or colour
4. How do you feel about wear and tear? If you have pets, then perhaps avoid richly textured materials that claws will love; similarly, steer clear of high maintenance fabrics if you have young children
5. Leather is great if you want a low-maintenance surface that’s easy to look after. For some vintage charm, pick a waxed leather: the soft and scratch-sensitive finish will give way to a lived-in look that’s full of character. Keep a lambswool throw handy to soften up the look of leather, and of course, keep you cosy with your book
And here are four of our favourite retro chair designs from our collection:
Professor Chair: Its slimline design – with a lowered back and arms – makes for an ideal chair for a smaller space, while maintaining comfort and support thanks to its curvaceous contouring. The chair is available in a variety of colours in linen or velvet, but we especially love it in leather, which comes with the underside of the seat cushion upholstered in a vibrant kilim motif.
Branco Chair: The ultimate choice for those looking to be completely enveloped by an armchair. Inspired by a Georgian-era nursing chair, the Branco makes a bold style impact with its unique scalloped high back, hand-applied studs and all-over tufting. Dial up the heritage look by opting for a waxed or “lived-in” leather.
Scholar Chair: As its name suggests, this model was inspired by the traditional armchairs found in universities across the UK, refreshed with hand-applied brass studs. Its wingtips will also come in handy to rest your head against should you find yourself nodding off during your third attempt at reading Moby Dick.
Saddle Chair: Make a style statement with this equestrian-inspired armchair, which comes embellished with actual stirrups. There’s no need to giddy up or down your jodhpurs though; the back recline is the perfect angle for snuggling up with a book and a glass of wine. If you’re up for punching up the impact, try opting for the cowhide accents to complement the leather.