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Is a Slipper Chair The Perfect Seat?

There’s something captivating about the allure of a slipper chair. Originally designed in the 18th century for a woman's boudoir, this elegant seating option has come a long way. Back then, it was meant for...

There’s something captivating about the allure of a slipper chair. Originally designed in the 18th century for a woman's boudoir, this elegant seating option has come a long way. Back then, it was meant for a Victorian lady to slip on her silk slippers while her maid assisted her. Today, the slipper chair has become a popular choice for modern interiors.

Pink slipper chairs in glamorous living room with zebra print coffee tables and Asian panelling on the walls. Photo by © Tim Street-Porter/OTTO

What is a slipper chair?

With its compact shape, short legs, armless body, and high back, the slipper chair is perfect for small spaces and tight corners. It typically doesn't have arms, although some variations may have slight wings or a curved back that mimics the feeling of arms. While it first emerged in women's bedrooms, slipper chairs are now commonly found in living rooms and entryways.

Beige slipper chair in traditional living room with large bookcase and dark walls. Caption: A Billy Baldwin slipper chair used in the designer’s own apartment.

How did slipper chairs become mainstays in modern interiors?

In the 1950s, acclaimed American interior designer Billy Baldwin played a significant role in popularizing slipper chairs outside of bedrooms. Baldwin recognized their potential as entertaining chairs and brought them into the living room. The low-slung, angled seat of a slipper chair provides an inviting shape that says, "Come, take a load off." However, without arms, it's not the kind of chair you'd want to curl up in for hours. It's more like, "Take a seat and stay a while—but not too long." This made slipper chairs perfect for midcentury hostesses.

Stylistically, Baldwin also introduced changes to the slipper chair's design. Traditionally unadorned with exposed wooden legs, he added a simple box pleat to conceal the base. Since then, slipper chairs have been produced in various styles, from midcentury modern to Spanish modern neoclassical and Art Deco interpretations.

Bright contemporary living room with blue bird-patterned slipper chairs and black and white wallpaper.

How has the look of slipper chairs evolved?

Over the years, several slipper chair designs by celebrated designers have gained near-iconic status and remain highly sought after. One of the most quintessential midcentury modern slipper chairs was created by American designer Edward Wormley. Crafted with a round molded ebonized wood base, tapered legs, a tight back, and button tufting, it has become a classic. Another notable design is the armless slipper chair by Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin, featuring a unique teardrop shape that swivels and tilts. Billy Haines, a film star turned interior designer, put a Hollywood Regency touch on the slipper chair with a classic Klismos-inspired shape and feminine button tufting. Italian architect and designer Gianfranco Frattini also contributed to slipper chair design with an upholstered chair featuring shaped wood side panels, exposed brass bolts, and splayed brass legs.

Beach house living room with a hanging chandelier, rattan chair, and blue slipper chairs to match the blue walls. Photo by © Eric Piasecki/OTTO

How are slipper chairs used today?

Slipper chairs have become versatile heroes in the world of accent chairs. They can be found in bedrooms, dressing rooms, living rooms, offices, and foyers.

Living Rooms: Slipper chairs are commonly used to frame a living room coffee table. Placing a pair of slipper chairs opposite a sofa creates a sense of balance. Their compact shape makes them ideal for tucking next to a freestanding bookcase or in a corner with a small table, creating a charming vignette.

Bedrooms: Slipper chairs can be placed across from a bed to offer a useful spot for putting on shoes, reading, or waiting. They can also cozy up to a side table, creating a functional corner out of otherwise unused space. Two slipper chairs can even be placed at the foot of a bed for added visual appeal.

Traditional living room with peach slipper chairs and large curtains.

Foyers: In a proper foyer, a pair of slipper chairs can create a welcoming atmosphere for guests. They provide a place to sit while putting on or taking off shoes, and can even create an instant "waiting room" feel.

Home Offices: Slipper chairs are an inspired choice for softening the lines of a home office. Placing two slipper chairs opposite an executive desk can add a touch of casual elegance. They can also be paired with glass or lucite desks for a more relaxed feel.

Glamorous workspace with a mirror desk, large purple mirror and a purple slipper chair. Photo by Patrick Cline, Designed by Sash Bikoff @sashabikoff

Slipper Chair Switch Up

If you find a slipper chair you love, you'll surely find plenty of use for it throughout your home. However, if you're looking to switch up its look, here are a few options:

  • Piping: Adding contrast piping to a slipper chair with a boxy silhouette can give it a graphic appeal and punch up the look.
  • Slipcover: Having a slipcover made for your slipper chair is a cost-effective option. You can even try a skirted look with box pleats for added elegance.
  • Trim: Adding floor-grazing bullion fringe can instantly elevate a simple slipper chair and give it a touch of pizazz.

Remember, slipper chairs come in a variety of styles, so choose one that best suits your taste and complements your space. With their versatility and timeless appeal, slipper chairs are an excellent choice for adding both style and functionality to any room.

Lead Photo © Scott Frances/OTTO