In the past few years there’s been a huge resurgence of many retro styles. Everything from midcentury seats all the way back to turn of the century antiques are making an appearance in dining rooms around the country. Rustic, reclaimed pieces have been especially popular, adding a homey, old fashioned accent to a contemporary kitchen. Even a few simple chairs can totally transform the look and feel of the space, because these distinctly shaped seats double quite nicely as accent pieces. Not sure where to start? Here are a few of the most popular styles and a few tips for using them in your home.
Cross Back Chairs
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Leading the pack in popularity are cross back chairs. This type of chair has become hugely popular in recent years, to the point that it’s almost become its own distinct style. Paired with a rustic wood dining table and one or two upholstered chairs, cross back dining chairs create a look that’s both sophisticated and laid back, with a natural, slightly rustic feel that’s ideally suited to a farmhouse style decor. What exactly is a cross back chair? They aren’t the modern type of dining chair with 90 degree angles and sharp edges. Rather, it’s a chair with a slightly rounded chair back criscrossed with two reedy, flexible wood pieces. The edges overlap and wrap around to secure to the sides of the seat, creating a curvier, more hand-hewn piece that’s not only more elegant in appearance, but also quite a bit more comfortable to sit in.
No. 14 Chair
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Another type of chair that’s popping up all over the place is actually one of the most famous and best selling chairs of all time: the No. 14 chair. Originally manufactured in 1859 and popularly used as a bistro chair, the No. 14 chair was one of the first to be assembled from stock pieces (much like modern big-box furniture), including four legs, a seat, and two arched curves that make up the back. These are a popular choice at least in part because they’ve been manufactured steadily for more than a hundred years, and are a pretty easy find whether you buy brand new or are looking to pick up a genuine antique at a specialty shop, flea market, or garage sale. Unlike cross back chairs, which are typically left with a plain wood finish (or at most painted white or black), No. 14 chairs are often painted in bright, bold colors that are mixed and matched to add a cheery vintage touch to a kitchen or dining room.
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One of the more modern chairs on this list is the wishbone chair. Designed by Hans Wegner in 1949, wishbone chairs have an incredibly distinct shape, with a curved back that offers a slight arm rest and a Y shaped decorative support down the middle. The whole design is sleek and shapely, with elegant lines and curves that speak to the heart of high end midcentury design. These days, you can find these chairs made of beautifully polished wood with rattan seats. Colorfully painted models are out there, too, but simple wood models are more popular, as they add a touch of artistic modern design to a simple farmhouse style decor. The elegant, intricate shape of wishbone chairs packs a lot of design and style into a small package, allowing you to incorporate this sophisticated, retro touch without any additional pieces.
Factory Or Warehouse Style Chairs
Many of the retro chairs that are seeing renewed life are ones meant to work with a shabby chic or farmhouse style decor. But warehouse inspired pieces are also gaining popularity as part of a more urban industrial look. Reclaimed factory chairs are especially popular, like antique sit-rite chairs or other adjustable height stools. Typically ones you can find today are either made from pieces scavenged and salvaged from old warehouses, or, more rarely, are authentic antique pieces that have been restored to their original beauty. Replicas are a little rarer, but in all cases factory chairs often have many several moving parts and antiquated, whimsical design features, and hearken back to old fashioned urban industry.
Nailhead Upholstered Chairs
The last retro chair that’s been making a comeback is maybe something of an outlier on this list – it’s the only one that heavily features fabric, and is maybe less overtly distinct than some of the other chairs I’ve mentioned here. Most nailhead upholstered chairs are Parsons-esque style chairs, but there are many many variations, some with shaped backs, extended bases, or even chair arms. The important features here are 1) the upholstery – which right now is trending very heavily to canvas and the occasional light gray or off white and 2) the way the upholstery is applied. Namely, the small fabric nails that hold the material to the main part of the chair, creating an appearance that’s almost like a beaded trim around the edges of the chair. These have a more refined appearance than many other popular retro chair styles, but actually pair amazingly well with them – especially one or two nailhead upholstered dining chairs with half a dozen or more simpler wood retro chairs, either in a single style or mixing and matching. This combination results in a slightly eclectic, high-low, old-new contrast that’s perfect for creating a relaxed yet classy dining room.
What do you think of these classic dining chairs? Do you like the look of this reclaimed farmhouse/industrial style? Let me know in the comments below!