Are wingback chairs in or out of style? Once upon a time they were everywhere, then they seemed to fall out of fashion’s favour. Many people scour antique stores in the hopes of finding the perfect high-backed chair with scroll wings and ornate detailing, while the lucky ones inherit wing chairs as heirloom pieces. Yet there’s those who find the wingback chair stuffy and best kept in the past. The image of “Grandad’s comfy chair” or the wing back chair’s prevalence in bank lobbies certainly hasn’t helped its street cred. But the modern wing chair is a chic shapeshifter that can be styled to suit any situation. Like it or not, the versatility of the wingback chair means its set to make a comeback and its long pedigree means it never truly goes out of style.
The History of the High Back Wing Chair
The comfort and classic shape of high back winged armchairs has never gone out of style in the UK. You see them everywhere, from cosy fireside nooks to chic offices, sporting a variety of colours and shapes. The high back wing chair is an icon from the Middle Ages, developed in the 1600s. Much like the ancient and illustrious Stowe Knowle the original’s wooden sides protected the sitter from chilly castle draughts.
Colonial America embraced the UK’s wingback chairs in the 1700s. Horsehair stuffing and comfortable upholstery with cabriole legs transformed the wing back chair into a cosy fireside seat one could retreat to. The high-backed Queen Anne style is America’s traditional wingback chair with a generous “wing” that fully encases the head and shoulders of the seated person. It’s not hard to see why wingback chairs became known as easy chairs!
The high back wing chair also earned the moniker of ‘grandfather chair’. Its sturdy back support and wings that kept the cold at bay meant they were perfect for frail or elderly relatives. Perhaps this association with old age is why the high back winged armchair fell out of style.
A Chic Update
A Bergère chair, France’s incarnation of the winged armchair, is far from stuffy. Feminine, curving and exquisitely carved, Bergère chairs are a thing of beauty. Is a wing chair truly French if it isn’t gilded with fine silks, pretty embroidery and sumptuous velvet? The wide, deep seats and plush cushioning maximised style and comfort, while the wings protected a lady’s face from draughts and the heat of the fire. In the 19th and 20th century, the high back wing chair became popular in the Nordic countries. A Scandinavian twist smoothed the wing chair’s design, creating an ergonomic and distinctly modern wing chair.
No matter the country or century, the “wings” that project out extend down the arm rests, and the high back, are the marks of a true wingback chair. Timeless and practical, the high back wing chair is here to stay, and will add class and cosiness to any room in your home.
With fresh designs, luxuriant upholstery and endless colour-ways, you’re bound to find a modern wing chair to suit your décor needs. Read our styling tips below for ideas on how to embrace the return of the high back wing chair.
How To Make A Wing Chair Work In Your Home
A Fireside Friend
Flank your fireplace with a pair of high back wing chairs for a touch of old-world elegance. Even if your fireplace doesn’t function you can create an atmosphere that invites deep conversation with nesting side tables and soft lighting – perhaps candles glowing on the mantelpiece? Chat into the wee hours, curled up in the velvet embrace of your very own wing back chair. Benson, an Original Chair Company favourite, is the perfect companion to snuggle into on cold nights.
Wing Backs Warm A Draughty Hallway
A winged armchair means cosy. Show guests they’re welcome with a comfy spot to take off coats and shoes. And isn’t it nice to have a place to pause and collect your thoughts before flying out the door? If your hallway is draughty, invite warmth with sumptuous upholstery in fiery brights. Or dial up the cosy factor with Dougal, our graceful wing chair in charmingly traditional check.
Create A Romantic Reading Nook
An underused corner of your home could be granted purpose and magnificence with a plush wingback. A large wingback chair is a commanding presence, perfect for a modern Pemberley. A floor lamp will cast a soft glow as you turn the pages of your favourite book and an elegant side table is marvellous for writing letters (or a place to rest your tea!). Romanticise the day away in complete comfort. Inspired by the wingback style designed for drafty castles, our Benson chair, with its practical high solid back and enveloping wings, has bags of period charm fit for modern romantics.
Add Drama To Your Dining Room
Add drama to your dining room with contrasting winged armchairs. High backed winged leather chairs make for chic dining companions. Place one at each end of the table for a throne-like arrangement. They work wonderfully when juxtaposed with minimal, contemporary dining chairs. Think of the captivating conversations guests will have in these chairs! Handsome and contemporary Brodie or traditional Oakham are the perfect wing back dining chairs to add sparkle to your dinner parties.
Wingback Armchairs For Beautiful Boudoirs
Kick off your shoes and slip into something more comfortable! A bedroom can be transformed into a boudoir with the simple addition of a deep seated wing back chair. Create a sacred space for some much-needed self-care. Our Kendal wingback armchair in gold brocade and matching footstool is the perfect spot to curl up with a magazine and glass of wine. You could also dress this chair up in feminine florals and run-your-fingers-through-it velvet. Luxe accents and padded cushions add the final flourish.
The wood on original wing back armchairs were strong, simple and showed excellent craftsmanship. The French added sophisticated touches with fluted and flared legs where traditional wing chairs were solid and masculine. We love the idea of rattan or bamboo wing backs, which bring a light, playfulness to a traditionally sturdy silhouette. With our Coltbridge chair you’ve room to play. Why not try a high back wing chair in oh-so savvy silver snake print? Or delight in fashion-forward stripes with our Georgian Wing Chair? We’ve hundreds to choose from in our fabric library.
Two’s the charm in this instance. High back wing chairs can bring a sense of privacy to big, open plan living rooms. Twin wing chairs will look stately or cosy in your living room depending on how you dress them up. Contrast the fabric of your wingchairs with the upholstery of your sofa for a chic clash of styles. Pile blankets, tweed upholstery and quilted cushions on our Stamford Wing Chair to bring cosy cottagecore vibes to your home while the sleek wings of high backed Logan, upholstered in grey or midnight velvet will bring Scandi cool to your living space.
As a Stately Office Chair
A high back wing chair exudes corporate elegance. From high-flying businessmen to stately politicians, wingback chairs have graced the boardrooms and private offices of the world’s most important people. When First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, restored The White House in the 1960s, wingback chairs featured prominently. She said, “everything in the White House must have a reason for being there.” We’re sure you don’t need a reason to incorporate a classic leather wing chair into your home office! A wingback office chair makes an impressive desk companion and is also a comfortable place to immerse yourself in a project. Our Jubilee chair has low armrests which allows you to work comfortably. Alternatively, George replete in cognac leather, is a timeless piece, adding heritage and class to your home office.
Luxury Wingback Armchairs UK
At The Original Chair Company we specialise in crafting bespoke wing back chairs. Whether you want a modern wing chair, leather wing chair or large wingback we can build you the wingback chair of your dreams. At our workshop in the UK all our high back wing chairs are built to last by skilled artisans, using only the finest materials. Everything is customisable, right down to the castors and made with a Qualofil fibre cushioned seat as standard.
Fabric For Fine Living
Becoming your own designer is easy with our fabric library at your fingertips. Pick from hundreds of prints and textures to create the custom upholstered chair of you’ve always wanted. If you are unable to come to the studio we can discuss your preferences via email, phone or FaceTime. We also offer a complimentary sample service. From Ralph Lauren, Mulberry, Liberty and Fermoie (the founders of Farrow & Ball), we can find your perfect style match.