- Shelby Whitfield
5 Iconic (French) Chairs and Where to Find Them
Let's be real: dining chairs are a challenge.
There are so many options available, it can be difficult to narrow down which styles will work for a specific space. Good news- classic styles can be fairly universal! Today, I'm rounding up a just few of these iconic chairs, and linking sources (in the underlined text) so you can bring the look home.
Since there are so many out there, this post really deserves its own series. I'll be sticking to a vague French theme today, and if you guys enjoy this post, I'll continue to write them!
First up- these classic bistro chairs (one of a few that go by that title) are traditionally rattan weave, and great for outdoor use. They're technically an odd French/British Colonial hybrid, so they work in plenty of design aesthetics.
Above is Martyn Lawrence Bullard's Cali-Moroccan refresh for The Purple Palm (of Colony Palms Hotel in Palm Springs), featuring the bistro chair. The red's definitely a showstopper, but if it's not your color, read on!
Mark D Sikes seems to have a thing for these chairs, too. He's used the backless counterstool version in his retail Draper James project, and the backed counterstool in a lovely Beverly Hills kitchen. Loving the vibrant cobalt island, by the way! (Here is a similar chair construction in a slightly different style. These can be used under a covered patio as well!)
Another well known "bistro" chair also goes by another name- designer Michael Thonet's Number 14. His aptly named "bentwood" creations are practically universal (and you've probably seen his famed rocker with also famed Picasso, above).
So called because Thonet's designs are made of literal bent wood, they've been found in mid-century American homes, Parisian apartments, English cottages, you name it! (I showed off another great use of the Nr 14 on Instagram, too.)
They're also perfect scale for a breakfast table (Emily Clanfield Interiors).
Though not exactly the 14, I found this vintage number 31 set on consignment from one of the original Thonet factories! (And yes, Thonet is German-Austrian, not French, but since we think of his chairs in terms of Paris cafes, I'll allow it).
Our next icon is even more of a throwback- the Klismos chair is an ancient Greek form. Literally as old as Socrates, it was revived in Paris in the Neoclassical era and has undergone a few modernizations since, but the basic stylization remains the same.
Splayed legs and a curved back are the most recognizable features; the next few links will show just how adaptable it is!
Probably the most true to our Greek inspiration, this chair is identical to the Veranda photo above (and thanks a lot, Pinterest; original source goes uncredited. Let me know if you have more info!). It's got a beautiful woven leather seat, too! And if black isn't your thing, here is a stained option.
A still classic, yet modern, take on the now-famous (also vaguely French) Louis XV ghost chair, I've specified the acrylic klismos above for a client and we loved how it turned out around her breakfast table. It looks great paired here with the bone inlay, too. (This Syrian dowry chair combines the inlay and klismos into one piece too beautiful not to share!)
The jury- me- is still out on the modernized Anziano chair by John Hutton- it's sculptural and beautiful- but I have to admit, not so comfortable. It's a great "sometimes" chair, though, and they do stack conveniently!
I've linked some other French classics below: Deco & Louis styles are fairly versatile finds!
Many of these features are excellent accent chairs, so if you've got an empty corner that's dying for a place to perch, set up a couple with a drink table, and you've not got a lovely vignette. Or, you might find a style that complements your existing dining chairs and can flank a sideboard- extra seating for surprise guests!