If you’re looking to add an eye-catching accent piece to your living space, take a page from the history books. You don’t need to be a connoisseur of antiques to reap the benefit of some of the most beautiful and unusual furnishings the past has to offer. Whether rebuilt as replicas or rebranded as modern curiosities, you can find tons of fun, antique-inspired accent pieces that won’t break the bank. Dome Chairs (also known as the balloon chairs) are among my personal favorites. This holdout from 18th Century France takes the idea of a high-backed chair to a whole other level.
What Is A Dome Chair?
Dome chairs are arm chairs topped with a distinctive dome that gives them an unusual, balloon-like shape. The dome encases the back and sides of the chair, covering it like a canopy up top and ensconcing it on both sides. The dome can be deep or shallow, is usually (but not always) upholstered, and tall enough that even very tall people can sit in them comfortably. The extra height and unusual shape are what make this chair so distinctive; even a single one can add an arresting classic style to your living space.
Built For Drafty Homes
But dome chairs aren’t just for looks. From a historical standpoint, their most important function was protecting the person sitting in the chair from drafts. The sides and top of the chair create a relatively deep, sheltered space (some moreso than others) where you can sit back comfortably, protected from currents of cold air in the surrounding room. Particularly facing a fireplace, that makes these chairs extra cozy. Historically, though, they were often placed in less hospitable areas of the home – like an entryway – and used by servants while waiting to admit guests.
…But Great For Quiet Conversations
Though your home is probably less drafty than ones from a few hundred years ago, even in a modern setting, dome chairs have their uses. For one, they’re good at blocking sound as well as air flow. Alone, a dome chair can help insulate you from the noise of the surrounding room. When paired with another matching chair, they create a relatively quiet, private conversation area. Dome chairs are particularly well suited for use as standalone reading chairs; they create a cozy little self-contained nook that’s warm, quiet, and perfect for curling up in.
Fine Tune The Style Of Your Dome Chair
Dome chairs are fairly easy to dress up or down to fit the style of your living space. While the big dome up top is always going to be a distinctive feature, the level of detail in the woodworking, the type of wood and finished used, and the type and amount of fabric used on the upholstery can all have a big impact on the final appearance of the piece. Chairs with unupholstered domes, for example, have a slightly more casual, wicker-like appearance that makes them a nice pair for a sunroom or conservatory. On the other hand, satin, velvet, or leather in rich browns or gem tones are better suited to a parlor, library, or a more elegant living room. You can also find designs almost anywhere in between; accent chairs sporting simple, neutral-toned fabrics are particularly popular, and work well with a French country style.
(Hint: Material Choices Matter)
You can also find dome chairs with a more modern twist. It’s hard to scrub the Louis XV influence out of the base design, even if you strip away the ornate Rococo style woodworking. But swapping from the traditional wood and fabric to a polyresin plastic and bonded leather in a solid, bold color creates a look that’s very chic and very modern. The shape of the chair evokes the classical style, but the outlandish material choice gives the look a sassy, slightly tongue-in-cheek feel that’s perfect for an edgy yet glamorous modern space.
Modern “Dome Chair” Remixes
Despite being a little on the obscure side, traditional dome chairs have inspired plenty of spinoffs – both antique and modern. Though they’re a bit more rare, you can find double-wide dome chairs that are big enough to seat two. These are more like a compact settee than a full loveseat, but offer a little extra room, if not to share, than to curl up and get comfortable. On the far opposite side of the spectrum, you can also find very modern takes on the dome chair – think the bad boy from the first Men In Black Movie. The final look is totally, wildly different, but the benefits are still there – both as a bold accent piece and as a surprisingly good way to add a private little hideaway to your living space.
Dome chairs are one of the more unique furniture designs out there, and they’re a great way to give a distinctive look to your living room, whether you have a very traditional style, or a really stylish modern one. They’re absolutely perfect for anyone looking for a comfy chair to curl up and read a book in.