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Is a Slipper Chair The Perfect Seat?

CEO Khai Intela
There's something truly captivating about the idea of a slipper chair. Originally designed as seating for a woman's boudoir in the 18th century, it served as a place where elegant Victorian ladies would put on...

There's something truly captivating about the idea of a slipper chair. Originally designed as seating for a woman's boudoir in the 18th century, it served as a place where elegant Victorian ladies would put on their silk slippers, often with the help of a maid. The task of slipping on shoes was no easy feat for women of that era, with their heavy petticoats and corsets. However, the slipper chair has come a long way since its inception and is now a staple in 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 short legs, armless body, and high back, the slipper chair's compact shape makes it a versatile design that works well in small spaces and tight corners. Typically, slipper chairs do not have arms, although there are some exceptions with slight, sloping wings or curved backs that mimic the support of arms. While these chairs were initially found in women's bedrooms, they have now made their way into living rooms and entryways.

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

How did slipper chairs become popular in today's interiors?

Acclaimed American interior designer Billy Baldwin played a significant role in bringing slipper chairs out of the bedrooms and into the living rooms during the 1950s. Baldwin recognized the potential of these chairs as entertaining seating options. With their low-slung, angled seats, slipper chairs invite you to take a load off. However, due to their armless design, they are not meant for long hours of lounging. Instead, slipper chairs offer a comfortable place to sit and stay for a while, but not too long. This made them the perfect addition for midcentury hostesses.

Baldwin also added his own stylistic touch to slipper chairs by incorporating a simple box pleat to conceal the base. Since then, slipper chairs have been produced in various styles, ranging from midcentury modern with a tight back and no skirt to Spanish modern neoclassical with woven leather straps and even Art Deco with a curved back and rounded contours.

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

How has the look of slipper chairs evolved?

Several slipper chairs designed by renowned designers have achieved near-iconic status and remain highly sought-after to this day. For example, Edward Wormley, an American modernist furniture designer, created one of the most quintessential midcentury modern slipper chairs. This chair features a round molded ebonized wood base, tapered legs, a tight back, and button tufting. Another notable slipper chair is the armless design by Milo Baughman, an American furniture designer, which has a unique teardrop shape that swivels and tilts on a circular base made of walnut veneer, brass, or chrome. Billy Haines, a film star turned interior designer in the 1930s, incorporated a Hollywood Regency touch to the slipper chair with a classic Klismos-inspired shape and feminine button tufting. Across the pond, Italian architect and designer Gianfranco Frattini created an upholstered slipper chair with 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.

How are slipper chairs used today?

Slipper chairs have become versatile heroes among accent chairs, finding their place in bedrooms, dressing rooms, living rooms, offices, and even foyers.

Living Rooms One of the most common uses for slipper chairs is to frame a coffee table in a living room. If the room and coffee table are large enough, placing a pair of slipper chairs opposite a sofa creates a beautiful sense of balance. Due to their compact shape, slipper chairs are also perfect for tucking next to a freestanding bookcase or in a corner with a small table to create a stylish vignette. Traditional interior designer Mario Buatta says, "Not only do they fit into funny places where it would be hard to put a full-sized chair, but they're also charming."

Bedrooms Slipper chairs can be a great addition to bedrooms. Placed across from a bed, they offer a useful spot to sit while putting on shoes, reading, or simply waiting for someone. Adding a side table to a slipper chair creates a functional corner that maximizes space. Two slipper chairs can also be placed at the foot of a bed, providing a visually appealing touch.

Traditional living room with peach slipper chairs and large curtains.

Foyers In a proper foyer, slipper chairs can create a welcoming atmosphere. They offer a comfortable place to sit while putting on or taking off shoes, and they can also create an instant "waiting room" for guests.

Home Offices When it comes to softening the hard lines of a home office, slipper chairs are an inspired choice. Placing two slipper chairs opposite an executive desk can help balance out the space, especially when upholstered in patterns like houndstooth or plaid. In rooms with glass or lucite desks, swapping out a traditional desk chair for a slipper chair can create a more casual, laid-back feel.

Glamorous workspace with a mirror desk, large purple mirror, and a purple slipper chair.

Slipper Chair Switch Up

If you happen to find a slipper chair you love, there are various ways to change up its look:

  • Piping: Adding contrast piping to a slipper chair with a boxy silhouette can give it a graphic appeal and enhance its overall appearance.
  • Slipcover: Since slipper chairs are small in scale, having a slipcover made for them is a cost-effective option. This also allows you to experiment with a skirted look using box pleats.
  • Trim: Adding fringe, especially floor-grazing bullion fringe, can instantly elevate the look of a simple slipper chair.

So, whether you are looking for a functional piece of furniture or a stylish accent chair, slipper chairs are a versatile choice that can fit seamlessly into any room of your home.

Lead Photo © Scott Frances/OTTO