An armchair is a common enough household item for us to not think about it too much – until we’re actually looking to buy one. These necessary, enduring pieces of furniture get their name for one specific, technical nature – armrests. The armrests are what distinguish this single-seater from a regular chair or side chair, but even then, this integral piece of furniture is a broad category unto itself.
What type of armchair are you looking for, specifically? A decorative fauteuil to fit the ornate, vintage pieces you have in your living room, or a plushy high-backed wing chair? Are you going for leather, or an eclectic mix of patterns and prints and colors to pop out against plain snowy walls? Which room is it going to go in, and how are you going to maintain it? It might all seem unexpectedly overwhelming, with the endless options available to us, but keeping a couple of checkpoints in mind can help make the process much more streamlined and simpler.
For starters, you need to ask yourself what exactly your armchair is intended for. If it’s for decorative purposes – because after all nothing ties a room together as well as the perfect armchair in the corner of a room sitting like it belongs there – statement styles like a Queen Anne armchair or more traditional styles like fauteuils with exposed, intricate wooden frames might be the ideal centerpiece, especially if you have more classical or vintage furniture. Wingbacks and bergere chairs can be adapted with a modern twist of fabric and fittings for a more contemporary style too.
If your main priority is not just aesthetics, however, you could go with a comfier option that would let you lounge back without the stiffness of an exposed wooden frame or stiff sides getting in the way. An armchair intended for your bedroom or library, a nursery where you intend to feed your baby, or a study where you’re looking to get some work done could have an upright enough back to let you sit with your laptop or a book, but relaxed enough to let you recline or get comfy in. A barrel chair might be too small for you to be completely comfortable to chill in for long periods of time, while a largish, plushy club chair might give you the room to kick back and tuck your legs in under yourself as you spend the afternoon watching Netflix and sipping tea.
Consider just what, exactly, you’re going to be using your armchair for when taking your pick, since the kinds of shapes, sizes and styles available to you weigh heavily on that decision.
Fabric, including synthetic fabric like microsuede, gives us endless opportunities to play with color and texture for our armchairs, going with contrasting hues or statement patterns to give our individually seating chairs their own personality. But before going into a catalogue of color palettes and designs, we need to decide which fabric is the best choice for us, or if fabric is the right choice at all.
If you have small kids around the house, for instance, the threat of spills, stains, and crayon markings on your furniture is pretty imminent, so you might want to consider leather or faux leather armchairs. These are easy to wipe down and keep clean, and if properly conditioned, won’t crack. On the other hand, rough textures might be a bad idea if you have pets that love to scratch and roll around in your furniture.
Colors, designs, patterns
These are slightly more stylistic choices, but also bear on how well your armchair is going to fit into its new home. Pick colors and patterns which complement the room and your current furniture, so it seamlessly blends in rather than standing out like an awkward stranger at a family get-together. Even if you’re going for a color palette or style combining disparate elements, a vein of consistency – choices like matching your cushions to your curtains, or picking pillows of contrasting colors to your armchair, will tie the room together more than risk it looking like a curiosity shop of mismatched knick-knacks.
Practical considerations bear in, too – for dusty spaces, too dark or too light colors are both going to require plenty of upkeep to stay looking their best, while neutrals like beige or gray are better at hiding dust and dirt. Meanwhile, if the armchair’s intended location is already dark, picking a dark color might make the room look even duller, while lighter shades brighten it up.
Style- or design-wise, you’ll be answering questions pertaining to the overall theme of your room of choice. If you have more contemporary furniture, you’ll want something modern over traditional; if you’re going minimalistic, you’ll want clean lines and curves with two to three colors running across, toning down extra loud or busy patterns. If you have a lot of wooden furniture, you might consider getting an armchair with exposed wooden frames matching that wood or style to subtly tie it together with the rest of your décor, rather than opting for a fully upholstered option.
Armchairs come in big and small sizes, anywhere from large, encompassing wingback chairs that’ll fit right in next to your fireplace or in the corner by the biggest window of your room, or a barrel chair in your office where you conduct your business with guests visiting for short periods of time.
Space considerations are a must when it comes to picking the right chair size – if you have the space, picking a small armchair is not going to make the same visual or aesthetic impact as a larger, perhaps higher-backed option would, while a large armchair in a tiny room might leave it feeling cramped and stuffy. The size of the armchair needs to tie in with both the available space in the room and what else there is in the space – you don’t want it coming off too under- or overstated. Consider how big the accompanying sofa is, how high or low your coffee-tables are – imagine how awkward a low-seated armchair would be, dwarfed beside a high-legged coffee table or a gigantic couch, and you’ll get what we mean.
Comfort is another factor when it comes to picking the right sized armchair. If your shoulders are hunched up or slumped down while you’re using the armrests, the height is not the best to support and encourage proper sitting posture. If you have issues with your back or legs, it’s also highly inadvisable to get a low-seated armchair, since not only won’t you get the adequate support when sitting, but you also risk straining yourself trying to haul yourself out of it. The same problem also occurs if your seat is too deep or too shallow – the right depth supports both your thighs without you sinking into the plush and having to excavate yourself out of it later. For back and leg problems, or other posture related issues, look out for high-backed chairs that give you the right lumbar support as you sit back, and features like built-in footrests.