Solving the mystery – what is a slipper chair?
“Why not slip into something more comfortable”, sounds like a sultry suggestion oozing from a seductive James Bond-like character in a movie. Of course, referring to a time when overtures were implied versus directly discussed between two paramours. But as sexy as that scenario played out, the same inviting mantra could be applied to the storied slipper chair. As a matter of fact, these uniquely-named decorative seats are more common than you might think. Furthermore, we think you may discover you need one of these multifaceted chairs yourself. Nest Casa breaks down this comfortable seating option along with the best slipper chairs on the market to invest in now, in order to add a sense of ease and sophistication to your own space.
What is a Slipper Chair?
Perhaps you already know what these armless accent chairs are, as surely you have noticed these low-to-the-ground upholstered seats. But perhaps less known is this chair’s storied past. Their form is said to follow function. In fact, slipper chairs date back to the Victorian-era. 19th-century well-heeled ladies were of course, swathed in tight corsetry. To the point that putting on one’s shoes or slippers (as they tended to be called then) was an arduous feat. The slipper chair, with its high supportive back, low seat height, and armless sides provided a place to easily slip on one’s shoes. A classic slipper chair was usually placed in a dressing room or bedroom. However, this was done with the aid of a ladies' maid, common among high-society women.
Billy Baldwin’s Slipper Chair
The chairs found their way out of the strict ladies’ quarters by the 1950s thanks to famed interior designer Billy Baldwin. The decorator, a term he preferred, was famous for decorating the Kennedy White house along with First Lady – in name and taste – Jackie Kennedy. Additionally, other clients included Cole Porter, Greta Garbo, Barbara Hutton, and Diana Vreeland, among others. Ultimately, he was society’s designer of his time. Moreover, he was a member of high society himself, attending the famous Black and White Ball hosted by Truman Capote and finding himself on the international Best Dressed List in 1974.
The designer, dubbed the ‘Dean of Indigenous Designers’ reimagined the slipper chair for a 20th-century space. Accordingly, he employed some of his trademark elements. To enumerate, Baldwin favored plump deep seating, upholstery to the floor (hence the famous box-pleat base), and cotton - as comfort and usability were his ethos. He created a slightly curved or tilted high-back version of the armless, low-base chair.
In fact, in 1972 just before retiring, he created his own line of furniture including the famous and versatile chair. As a result of its popularity, this chair style is still available at the Billy Baldwin Studio today. Along with the slipper chair, the decorator’s most distinguished accomplishment is his establishment of the American home style. To summarize, Baldwin put it this way “We can recognize and give credit where credit is due, to the debt of taste we owe Europe, but we have taste, too,” he declared of his work and his famous appropriation of the slipper chair design.
How to style a Slipper Chair in the Bedroom
The bedroom of definitely one place this armless chair feels most at home - after all, the bedroom and dressing rooms were its incarnation spots. But today’s bedroom slipper chair offers another luxury. Seating for many is a luxury considering smaller urban home bedroom sizes. Thus, smaller chairs for the bedroom are an increasingly popular seating solution. The slipper chair, in Baldwin’s case and many others, comes in varying sizes to accommodate all sorts of spaces with aplomb.
The bay window of this Claridge’s Hotel London room was meant for a slipper chair. In this case, a fuzzy textured version juxtaposes against the Oscar Ono forest floor. In this instance, the chair is the center of its own universe allowing it to be enjoyed from many different vantage points. Hence the chair serves as a spot to gaze at London’s skyline, absorb occasional sunshine, read a book with the handy reading lamp or enjoy a quiet drink alone which can rest on the nifty drink table next to it.
How to Style a Slipper chair in the Dressing Room
Certainly, an even greater luxury for the slipper chair placement is inside a dressing room. The lucky few whose closets are big enough to accomodate dressing room seating can’t possibly live without these versatile chairs. To demonstrate, presuming your closet is big enough for a chair, it’s big enough for another person. The slipper chair allows them a place to sit while you peruse options or vice-versa. It also provides a visual respite when placed in the middle of the closet to differentiate the different aspects of the room such as hung clothing, shelves for accessories, and of course storage drawers.
However, the home dressing room isn’t the only place that benefits from a well-placed slipper chair. A dressing room at a store can also be the perfect place for these armless chairs such as shown here at the Carolina Herrera store in Manhattan. Size is a consideration in the case of this placement. Placed near a corner adjacent to this blue shelf for purses and other belongings, this compact yet super-luxe chair pulls together the soft red, white and blue color scheme and gives the customer a place to sit while changing. In particular, the red fringe trim on this chair follows Baldwin’s theory of exposed legs and adds to the sophistication of the seat.
How to Style a Slipper Chair in the Living Room
Comfortable upholstered chairs are meant for a living room. But having armrests is not necessarily a requirement. Of course, similar to the bedroom where a reading nook is desired or the dressing room where space is the consideration, the living room can beg for one of these chairs. But moreover, they can serve as literal conversation pieces. Having no sides usually makes it easier to swivel these chairs around and allow for multiple channels of conversation while entertaining a group.
On the other hand, a slipper chair can create a private nook in a living room as well. Whether it be for reading, relaxing, or just enjoying the view on a beautiful day. London-based interior designer Martin Brudnizki, who also owns AndObjects with design partner Nicholas Jeanes, offers a glimpse into his own private space. Here, a George Smith Furniture slipper chair is covered in lush rich velvet.
How to Style a Slipper Chair in an Office or Den
Similarly, an office or den is also a perfect place to situate a slipper chair. This armless accent chair is also highly practical. For instance, consider a set of slipper chairs in front of an office desk, particularly in a commercial setting. While the guests offered these seats may be comfortable, it’s generally not a seat to be taken and relaxed in for hours. Thus, the ease of getting in and out of the slipper chair; which can be done from the side, making it just as practical as it is pretty.
Likewise, a den that can serve as both an office and a relaxing spot is perfect for a slipper chair. This den in JK Place Paris also exudes a manly side, demonstrating that the slipper chair does not discriminate based on gender. Its feminine leanings can also work for a more masculine application. The style here qualifies as a club room slipper chair with its smooth leather stitched side and Wingback effect, which accents its cushy seat and adds a smooth finish to this richly-textured room.
How to style a Slipper Chair in A Foyer or Entryway
Given their uniquely useful origins for serving as a spot to put on ones’ shoes, a foyer is a perfect place for these small accent chairs. In most cases, space is the primary concern in these tight areas. These elegant small chairs create the best seating option for removal and putting on footwear. Furthermore, they add a bit of pizzazz in an area that mainly serves to usher our transition from inside to outside.
Beyond a foyer, larger commercial spaces have a lobbies as their entryways. Given that this is the first impression of the dwelling, making it visually appealing is warranted. But it must also serve a purpose for arriving or departing guests to have a place to rest briefly upon arriving or leaving. This entryway designed by Achile Salvagni in this London interior uses two armless chairs, rendered in a pop of kelly green, to offset the beige, navy, and charcoal setting which is accented by an ancient Greek bust on the wall.