High backed chairs with simple canvas or linen colored upholstery are starting to pop up all over the design world right now, particularly as part of the increasingly popular restoration style. These chairs combine an old fashioned elegance with a simple, clean finish that makes them well suited to a contemporary space, whether it’s a living room, dining room, or even a master bathroom. They’re amazingly easy to dress up, too, particularly if you want to add a little grunge, a “found” look, or a touch of Parisian chic.
Eclectic, reclaimed, and upcycled furniture and decor items are in in a big way, with an emphasis on black and white contrast or at least a gray-scale-and-sepia-tones combination that evokes a turn of the century look and feel, like a black and white photograph. That means lots of found art, like manuscript pages, musical notation, or even postmarks or passport stamps. But while usually these are printed on paper and used as wall art, a simple off-white upholstery beautifully mimics aged parchment, and is a perfect medium for these unconventional “patterns.”
Antique style chairs that feature upholstery that’s been “written” on are more common than you might think, and make for a gorgeous and striking accent in a room with a neutral, eclectic-antique decor. Typically, the upholstered parts of the chair are covered in elegant script in varying sizes and styles of handwriting, often in French and frequently punctuated with numerical notations, stamps, logos, or signatures. The designs can be distinct or more abstract, clear or smudged and muddied, but are usually printed on a material with a slightly coarse, canvas-like texture to give the chair a slightly more practical look and feel.
That said, the design of the chair itself can be fairly elaborate; ornately carved arm chairs or wingback chairs with nailhead upholstery are common choices, particularly ones with at least a hint of French antique inspiration. The wood portions of the chair can be painted, stained and polished, or left with a natural finish, but are generally designed to give the chair a sense of old world elegance and sophistication. If the material and patterning of the upholstery make the chair feel casual, the overall design keeps just that hint of formality for a really lovely transitional style.
Though black on white is by far the most common color scheme for this design, it certainly isn’t the only one out there. This Citographie chair from Uttermost pairs a blueprint colored blue-gray linen upholstery with assertive, print-style off-white text and bright brass nails, while other designs might pair more colorful stamps (postal or passport) with an off white upholstery. The point is less the color contrast and more the complex and overlapping layers of text that make these arm chairs really feel like an accent.
Ottomans with this type of upholstery are also starting to make their way into the collections of many furniture designers, both as a pair for matching arm chairs and as an accent all their own. The style of the upholstery is overall quite similar, but the design of the ottoman itself is sometimes a bit more contemporary, like the Amrit Cube above. The difference is subtle, but worth paying attention to, as it can skew the look of the room as a whole to have a more modern industrial feel.
Though arm chairs and ottomans are the most common, they’re by no means the only type of furniture that features this type of script-as-pattern design. Painted chests, vanities, screens, and more have all gotten the same treatment, and are specifically designed to lend an old fashioned yet hand crafted touch to whatever room they’re in. As with much of a restoration style, this particular look is meant to make antique styles feel a bit more practical and accessible rather than too nice to touch. For accent chairs in particular, the result is a chair that has an old world style, but that isn’t too fancy to sit on.
What do you think of this distinctive fabric style? Do you like the look of these restoration style arm chairs? Let me know in the comments below!