In a college art history/architecture class, our creative director, Leah Jacobs, learned about a number of famous architects and artists who had designed chairs. She thought it was pretty odd, but as the professor explained, it made sense as they spend a lot of time combining thoughtful design and beautiful functionality. What could be more functional than a chair? And to think of all the possibilities of modernizing and updating an age old tool would excite any creative mind. We looked into it and found that a lot of the “traditional” wedding or event chairs have similar histories. Check out what we found out about each chair and at what type of event we would use them. Title photo courtesy of Green Wedding Shoes.
The Barcelona Chair was designed by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, famous for being one of the pioneers of modern architecture and emphasizing pure structure over ornament. Mies and Lilly Reich designed the chair for the International Exposition of 1929, located in Barcelona. Mies was famous for his quote, “less is more” and carried this mentality into his designs. The chair has sleek swooping chrome legs, created as one single piece, and a leather cushion looped onto the back and seat bars. It’s the ultimate balance of form and function.
Photo courtesy of Barcelona Designs.
The Wassily Chair was designed by Marcel Breuer back in 1926. It’s note-worthy because it’s the first chair to use a bent-steel frame, inspired by the handlebars of a bicycle. The chair is named after famous abstract-impressionist painter, Wassily Kandinsky. He and Breuer met at the famous Bauhaus institution, became friends, and Kandinsky fell in love with the design, so Breuer created another for his friend. The chair was way ahead of its time and honestly still looks futuristic, almost 100 years later. The chrome frame is adorned with strips of leather in just the right places for comfort. It somehow combines minimalism and complexity to form a beautiful piece of functional art that stands the test of time.
Photo courtesy of Unprogetto.
King Louis XVI Chair
Despite being called the King Louis XVI, this chair is fit for a Queen, specifically Marie Antoinette. Craftsmen Georges Jacob and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené are largely credited with creating these chairs and many other sets of ornate furniture for the Queen in the 1770s. They’re classy, comfortable, elegant and feature tapered carved legs, oval back, and armrests. The chair is upholstered, usually in a luxurious fabric like linen or velvet. These chairs are almost an essential for any formal event, especially if the venue is a beautiful chateau or estate.
Photo courtesy of Full Bloom Cottage.
Cane Back Chair
Caned furniture originated in Europe around the 1660s, after trading with Asia became easier. Caning is the process of weaving and stretching strands of natural material over the frame of the piece of furniture. People enjoyed the cane furniture because it was lighter than solid wood, more durable and easy to repair, and clean and airy. Today, these chairs usually have a plush upholstered seat for more comfort. Event hosts or designers choose these chairs to create an antique-like yet natural vibe. They might be more formal than a simple folding chair yet less formal than a Chiavari or King Louis XVI, but still work in boho events with lots of greenery and neutral colors.
Photo courtesy of Style Me Pretty
Chiavari chairs are the most popular and traditional style for weddings. Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi was asked by the president of the Economic Society of Chiavari in 1807 to design a new versatile chair. The chair that emerged was made to look like bamboo with simple straight legs and back. They were light and stackable for ease of use and worked with many different covers and cushions to customize them for different settings. In 1953, the Kennedy’s even used Chiavari chairs at their extravagant wedding. They cross style, geographic and even time boundaries as a classic design. Today, they are considered a traditional wedding chair and come in metallics, multiple colors, patterns and even clear acrylic.
Photo courtesy of The Knot.
Rattan/Wicker Chair (Peacock Chair)
First of all, what’s the difference - Rattan is the material used and Wicker is the style of weaving. Rattan/Wicker chairs have roots in ancient Egypt, as examples were discovered to be buried with pharaohs. The Roman Empire was inspired and incorporated the style as well, and eventually wicker was found all across Europe by the 17th century. Today, this style can be woven (pun intended) into any event’s decor, whether it be a tropical beach getaway or a bohemian desert oasis theme. We included Peacock chairs in this section as they can be used in similar ways. Peacock chairs have large wide backs and resemble the thrones in Asia they originated from. We love a pair of Peacock chairs at a sweetheart table for a wedding or a single chair for the mommy-to-be at a baby shower.
Photo courtesy of Southern Vintage.
This chair comes with many names because it’s design resembles many different things. The back of the chair is oval-shaped with two enclosed loops that, depending on how you look at it, can look like an infinity symbol or a fish swimming upwards. Originally, they were made similarly to the Chiavari chairs and often have the same faux bamboo legs. They now come in simpler styles and any color and material you can imagine from pure white wood to clear plastic to metallic gold. It’s fitting that the chair has many names as they fit within many different styles. We envision these chairs in an outdoor tented event, as they combine simplicity and elegance.
Photo courtesy of Costa Rica Wedding Rental.
We’d like to thank the Academy for these chairs. They first were designed for the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball in 2005, but have really taken off in recent years as a go-to for events. It’s called the Chameleon chair because often it’s covered by linens, covers, bows, or cushions and can blend in with any decor. Lately however, they have been more frequently used without a cover, exposing the beautiful design of the chair back. The back has a design that looks like movie premiere spotlights soaring into the sky, fitting for the ultimate movie awards, the Oscars. These chairs fit perfectly for a glamorous event or an elegant night out on the town.
Photo courtesy of The Party Store MT.
You might be able to guess why these are called Ghost chairs. They’re usually made of acrylic or lucite and are translucent. They share a similar silhouette as a King Louis XVI chair but are modernized with modern material. They have a much shorter history than most chairs as they were designed by Phillippe Starck in 2002. Currently, they’re one of the most popular wedding or event chairs as they - as you might imagine - fit with any colors and styles. Ghost chairs are extremely versatile and bring a contemporary modern vibe to any room, be it in an event design or even in one’s home.
Photo courtesy of Love Inc. Mag.
The Eames Chair
For lovers of mid-century modern, these are the chairs for you. Eames chairs were designed and created in 1950 - doesn’t get any more mid-century than that - by Ray and Charles Eames for the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, sponsored by the MoMA. There’s lots of different varieties of legs, whether you like simple wooden legs or intricate geometric metal legs, but the single molded fiberglass seat and back remain iconic. We would place these chairs in both ceremonies and receptions in modern loft spaces with lots of industrial features.
Photo courtesy of Birch & Brass.
The Panton Chair was created by Danish designer, Verner Panton, in 1960 and was the very first to be produced in one single piece of plastic. It’s extremely ergonomic and looks as if it was molded from the human body. Its’ beautiful simplicity is what makes it stand out as a timeless modern piece. It’s light, stackable, durable and easy to clean, making it a stand-out for event designers and decor rental companies. We would use these beautiful chairs in very modern or non-traditional venues like a modern art museum, rooftop or a nightclub.
Photo courtesy of Rocio Esquilas Rivas.
Series 7 Chair
Arne Jacobsen is one of the most successful and innovative furniture designers ever. He created the Series 7 Chair along with the Egg Chair and Swan Chair. You might not recognize the names of each of these, but I’m sure you’ve seen one or more. The Series 7 Chair was designed in 1955 by forming a single piece of plywood, cut in a modified hourglass shape, into the seat and back with simple metallic chrome legs. Jacobsen was a big believer and promoter of modern, clean lines and designs that improve quality of life. The modern Series 7 chair could be used in contrast to a barn setting, connected by leaving it in a wooden material or in tandem with a modern venue in a plastic solid color.
Photo courtesy of Sampleboard.
Folding Lawn Chair
These chairs come from a long line of folding chairs, with origins somewhat unknown. The use of these chairs is in the name - perfect for a backyard or garden venue. They fit in with nature, crafted from wood, and can be accented with matching florals to the event’s design and colors. Great for brides on a budget, they tend to be less expensive and can be jazzed up easily with florals, ribbons, cushions or aisle markers.
Photo courtesy of Party Rentals US.
Cross Back Chair
One of the more simple constructions, the Cross-Back chair’s simplicity has been around for ages. Some say the design originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, but upon further research, we found them used first in 20th century French cafes. They’re self-explanatory in that they have cross backs, but the legs are bistro-style with arch supports for the legs. Their no-fuss construction can be made from many different materials and accented with decor or left clean and simple. They are a wonderful choice for casual events. Their versatility can range from a Tuscan-inspired garden to a modern farm to an industrial rooftop.
Photo courtesy of Bella Acento.
Bentwood Cafe Chair
The Cross-Back chair’s cousin, the Bentwood Cafe Chair, was popular in Paris in the 1800s. Bentwood Cafe Chairs were made by Michael Thonet, a well-known chair maker of the time and as you might imagine, often seen in cafes or bistros. Created with lots of flowing arches and rounded back, they have an organic and eye-catching design. Traditionally they’re made in wood, but can be modernized in acrylic or painted a solid matte color. We would use these chairs at a garden tea party as they exemplify the combination of easy-going backyard fun with elegance of a rose-filled garden party.
Photo courtesy of Bentwood Events.
English Garden Chair
English Garden Chairs may vary in details, but the material remains as a heavy wrought iron. The design is forged by creating elaborate and intricate, almost lace-like, patterns to make up the rounded back and seat, and using ornate scroll or claw-foot detail on the legs. Originally used as patio seating in - you guessed it - English gardens, these chairs have moved into the event space for elegant outdoor event designs. They are more expensive than other types of outdoor seating, so best used for those with intimate small events or those with a large budget. Whether new or vintage, they create elegance and add detail to your outdoor garden or park venue.
Photo courtesy of TheGardenCentre.co.uk.
As you might guess from the name, Marais chairs have roots in France. They might not have actually been crafted in France, but have French inspiration from traditional cafe chairs (see above) combined with modern materials. The rounded back design and arched leg support is French-inspired, but the wide back and solid seat bring the design into the 21st century. Made of metal steel, they are usually painted, but can also be left in its original metallic colors of silver, gold or bronze. We love the idea of using these as a contrast to the venue, such as a modern farmhouse theme or used to complement the venue such as an industrial warehouse.
Photo courtesy of Style Me Pretty.
You must have seen these before, whether in New York, walking along outdoor cafe seating or relaxing in a public park. They’re made with a metal framing, adorned with slats of wood, and usually made with the ability to fold up and move easily. The metalwork can be intricate or simple, but either way you’re going to have a fun relaxed time while sitting in one. We see these chairs being used in either indoor or outdoor events, but casual vibes where people are going to be moving around and mingling a good bit. The event may not even have assigned seating so guests can move the chairs and create their own groups without any pressure. They’re perfect for a relaxed, go-with-the-flow type of host.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Anne Designs.
These hold a special place in our heart because they are such a special place to sit. You feel like a King or Queen in these Victorian Era Rococo-style chairs, most popular from the 1830s through the 1900s. The chairs are typically upholstered in plush fabric and feature the iconic high back and sides. The concept of the chairs however, was not always made for royalty. In medieval Europe, the chair was placed by the front door of an estate and served as a post for the servant in charge of answering the door and welcoming guests. The large back and sides were used to shield the servant from the cold as the door opened and closed. Eventually, we assume the nobility saw the chair and wanted one of their own, just a little fancier. Today, they are extravagant and suited for the star of the show, or event. We love the idea of using these for a sweetheart wedding table, or as a throne for the guest of honor at a birthday party.
Photo courtesy of Glamor and Woods.
Geometric dream chair! The Acapulco Chair is a beautiful Mexican design that stems back to 1953. The story behind this chair is a bit mysterious as there’s no credited designer. The story goes that a Frenchmen touring around Acapulco kept getting too hot sitting in traditional style chairs under the blazing Mexican sun. After observing the string-like design of a hammock he came up with the idea to design a chair that would have a similar air-flow. Nobody knows this man’s name but boy would we like to thank him! The chair today can be made from traditional woven fibers or made in a more modern metal construction but both with the same end result of an egg-shaped seat with geometric lines stemming out from the center. Use this chair in any lounge-style seating arrangements, indoor or out. We would place these chairs on a patio with other types of chairs and couches around for optimal mingling.
Photo courtesy of The Times UK.
The Wire Chair was designed by Charles and Ray Eames (sound familiar?) in the mid 20th century with the help of metalworker/artist Harry Bertoia. It was extremely innovative at the time as metalworking technology was becoming more sophisticated. The seat is made up of woven wires of steel, creating a single piece for the back and seat. Much like the Eames chair, the Wire chair’s leg design varies from simple to elaborate. Today, one of our favorite wire chairs is the Larkin Chair made by IMAX Corp as it has a gorgeous geometric design woven into the classic wire design. Typically, the beautiful part of the chair is it’s metallic material and is left at that but it is available painted to match any event. We see a rose gold colored chair in a fun-loving, geometric style bridal shower, with lots of simple shapes used in the design details - plus flowing champagne to match the rose gold.
Photo courtesy of Nouba.
Metallic High Round Back chair?
One last shout-out is to the Metallic High Round Back Chair. Why is that name so clunky? Because we couldn’t find an official name for it and that was the best search term for Google. We absolutely adore this style of chair and feel it’s “the next big thing” in event seating. Usually with an oval-shaped open back and cushy cushion, it’s bold and flashy and perfect for an over-the-top host, be it a bride or a birthday girl or boy. It’s mostly seen in gold, but upon looking harder we were able to find it in multiple metallics. We can’t wait to use these chairs for our next glamorous and bold bride.
Photo Courtesy of Gumtree.
If you’ve made it this far into the post, congrats. I was a little skeptical at first about even writing this one, but once I started doing research, it was actually fascinating. At one point I had over 12 pages of information! The goal of this post was to connect the dots of history, art and event design, one chair at a time.