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Originally published Friday, April 11, 2014 at 8:01 PM

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Choosing the perfect chair

More than a piece of furniture, the right chair is an expression of your style.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service


If you love to create home interior spaces that delight your eyes and refresh your senses, you know that a chair is so much more than just a place to sit. It’s an expression of your unique style.

It’s important to have a good idea of what you’re looking for in a chair before you begin to shop. Here is a checklist to help you pick the perfect chair for your home.

How will you use the chair?

This is perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself, because everything else will stem from your answer. Will this chair be in a little-used formal room, or will it be your favorite place to watch TV or read?

If this is a chair you want to relax in every day, comfort and durability are king. If it is more for show, you can go with a style that’s a little less sink-into-comfy and a fabric that is a bit fussier.

What is your style?

There are a million types of chairs out there. Which one is right for you? Formal? Traditional? Causal? Contemporary? Funky? Some pieces even blur the lines between style categories. For example, designers today are re-imagining the classic wingback chair, reinterpreting this timeless classic by making the silhouette cleaner, the upholstery bolder, the legs sexier.

You can further add to the chair’s personality through the upholstery fabric you pick, from a classic print such as a plaid to an edgy geometric. Not sure what style lights your fire? Flip through decorating books and magazines and mark the photos of chairs you love. Your style will surface quickly.

How high should the back and arms of the chair be?

If your chair is going to sit next to an end table, make sure the arms of the chair are either a few inches above or below the tabletop. When I design rooms, I frequently put higher-backed chairs against a wall or flanking the fireplace instead of in the middle of the room so they don’t obstruct the visual flow of the space.

Another dimension to consider is the height of the seat, especially if you plan to use the chair at a desk or as extra seating at your dining room table. Many chairs are too low to allow you to reach the desk or tabletop comfortably, so you’ll want one with a higher seat.

What kind of cushions do you like?

First, you have to decide whether you want the chair to have a loose back cushion, which looks more inviting to some people, or a tight back, which offers a cleaner silhouette. Then think about what kind of seat cushion grabs you. Do you like a firmer seat, or one that is super-soft? The best way to decide is to give the chair the sit test.

What kind of arm do you prefer?

Do you want the arms to show some wood or be padded? Do you like them thick or thin? If you want a style that will never go out of vogue, consider an English rolled arm. You’ll see this centuries-old classic spotlighted in decorating magazines decade after decade because it stands the test of time.

Do you want a skirt?

Skirts on chairs are still popular, though the height and depth of the skirt changes now and then. If you have pets, you might want to think twice about a skirt. If your pets like to rest against the chair, the oils in their skin and hair can make the skirt dingy. Dirty shoes can be a problem, too.

What kind of upholstery do you want?

Do you need fabric that is durable enough for pets and kids? Consider covering your chair with outdoor fabric; you can choose from great patterns and colors but don’t have to worry about daily wear and tear.

Do you want a solid color or a pattern? A dark or light color? Look at swatches of upholstery fabric. It shouldn’t take long to zero in on the color and pattern that makes you smile.

What is your budget?

I’m a big believer in “cheater pieces” if you are able to get the same look for less money. But when it comes to upholstered furniture, you need to invest in high-quality pieces. Less-expensive chairs, made with inferior materials and slipshod workmanship, don’t stand the test of time.

In contrast, when you invest in a well-made chair that uses top-quality materials and expert craftsmanship, you’ll get a piece that you will have for generations — one that you can recover time and again. Get the highest-quality chair you can afford, knowing it’s an investment piece you will have for years to come.

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