When it comes to building a happy life, it’s essential to surround yourself with people who inspire you. Here, at Luxe Interiors + Design, we believe filling your home with inspiring furniture pieces is just as important.
Piqued by artist Rochelle Udell’s “Where do you sit in life?” exhibit at the New York Design Center, we tapped more than a dozen design professionals to share the stories behind their most treasured seats. Below, they share tales of family heirlooms, reimagined designs, client favorites and more.
Join us by sharing what pieces inspire you by using the hashtag #MyChairStory on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to tag @luxemagazine for a chance to be featured on our site or social media channels. We’ll be monitoring entries through Friday, April 28.
Editor in chief, Luxe Interiors + Design
I’m not sure whether I wholly believe in the reincarnation of people or animals: but furniture, definitely! This Louis XV chair resided, with its twin pair, along the picture-window wall in the dining room of my grandmother’s New York home. The duo was covered in elegant lavender-grey cut velvet. I loved most everything about that home: the smell of cedar in the basement; artful furnishings; and magical gardens. Mostly, I adored my grandmother who was a tastemaker and Renaissance woman. I inherited the chairs in 2001 when Stella passed away and recovered them with a textile that I now describe as “no longer suiting my fancy.” I hardly ever sit in the chairs; frankly, they’re not that comfortable and my preferred spot is the adjacent English roll arm sofa where I routinely plop down with my two Shi Tzu’s. But, I’m comforted that they’re there (the chairs, that is … and dogs, too!). Like the cobbler with no shoes, I procrastinated and haven’t gotten around to reupholstering the chairs. Thanks to Rochelle and her story, the fond memories of that home and my grandmother, it’s now high up on my “to-do” list.
I collect pieces by Edward Wormley–an American designer of modernist furniture–and my latest purchase was his iconic A chair. We share many similarities: Wormley made the piece in the 1960s, and so was I; he was born in the Midwest, and so was I. I plan to use the chair in the foyer of my new apartment. It will set the tone for the design of the space and who lives there. It is a perfect representation of the way I design and dress. It is an elegant and casual chair with eclectic details including a leather seat, an ebonized wood frame, a cane back and brass details. There is a sensibility about this chair that, even though it is more than 50 years old, like me, makes it still feel modern and fresh today. It is original like me.
This Le Corbusier chair swaddles me and is the chair I meditate in. It reminds me of an old Japanese haiku in which a kimono speaks the words, “whose arms will I hold tonight.”
About a year ago, I traveled to Stockholm and Copenhagen. The design aesthetic there appealed to me, as I have always related to light palettes and airy decor, but I did not realize how it would alter my eye and create a lasting change in the way I approached design. The most impactful aspect of modern Scandinavian design I took with me is simplicity in the most complicated sense–a reduction of decoration to a point where function is enhanced by only the most minimal necessities required to create elegance. Yet Scandinavian decor never comes off as too serious, formal or restricted; it’s distinctly unpretentious and designed for real living. My trip coincided with designing this dinette for a young family, and these Hans Wegner chairs were a homage to my newfound obsession with anything and everything Scandinavian. They add warmth and personality in a way that’s clarifying and functional. I smile every time I see this picture, because it brings me back to my wonderful trip and how much I learned and am still learning.
Lately I can’t stop thinking about the shape of Napoleon III armchairs, with the fully upholstered arms split from the frame. They’d usually be found covered in threadbare woven tapestries with long intricately braided bullion fringe. If stripped of distracting upholstery, the chairs are clean, with a tight back, a tight seat and sculptural arms. We are preparing a gut renovation of our New York City apartment, and these are what I want in my next living room: comfortable, elegant, authentic, quietly dramatic. I’d like to skirt them with a simple tall skirt, falling below the seat. In a smooth wool sateen in a saturated color, they would be elegant and with interesting profiles.
I purchased this round chair for a client’s master bedroom a few years back and absolutely fell in love with it. Custom-made with down cushions and a linen-blend fabric, it always looks sharp and refined. Not only does it swivel to face the TV for a late-night movie, it is also extremely comfortable to cozy up on with a book or significant other. It’s unique in shape and unique in how it complements a room. How many people can say they have an oversize round swivel chair to nap on? It would be a real treat to have one of these chairs in my future bedroom.
This chair is important to me for many reasons, two of which are: It is inspired by a design inspiration, Maison Jansen, and it is upholstered in a favorite Stark antelope velvet. This chair is the perfect scale for me and has supported many of the most important people in my life in a variety of settings–this apartment being its second home. It is sentimental as well; it has a sister chair, which I had custom made for one of my first independent clients who is coincidentally the mother of my godchildren. This chair represents comfort and familiarity in its use and history as well as style and sophistication in its materiality and inspiration.
This chair embodies where I am today as a designer and collaborator. The sleek and incredibly detailed solid wood base by Asher Israelow is the perfect complement to my expressive hand-dyed “glaze” leather in black and pearl. This leather pattern represents my latest In Context collection, which tells my story of exploring the dynamic tapestry of surfaces, textures and colors in the city around me. Collaborating with Asher has expanded this narrative even further by introducing new forms, new shapes and a powerful juxtaposition of materials. This chair’s unique combination of colors, textures and patterns encapsulates the structure and chaos that surround me in the city every day while also giving me a comforting place to call home.
The iconic wicker chair is reminiscent of old-world society and comfort. Whether it’s Prince Charles perched in a three-piece suit in his Highgrove Gardens, a lounging David Bowie on a rattan chaise or a cozy Marilyn Monroe sipping a cocktail, the wicker chair is a timeless classic that has been a coveted and reliable seat for decades. And its versatility goes beyond indoors and outdoors. The lightweight chairs can be dressed up or down with bright cushions in a city apartment amongst modern designs, or adorned with luxe chintz on a formal screened-in porch. Regardless of the setting, the wicker chair is a lasting, low-maintenance, go-to style for curling up, reading, relaxing or gossiping over cocktails.
Sarah Ramsey, Lee Cavanaugh, Ellie Cullman,
Claire Ratliff, Alyssa Urban
CULLMAN + KRAVIS
Our inspiration is the “chair and a half” we have been making for several years. This chair, 51-inches wide, is ideal for reading a book to a child or cozying up with a significant other. The platform and legs are mirrored, reflective of the core value in our lives: relationships with the ones we love.
Without a doubt, the most present chair in my life is this Bergere chair that my mother got sometime in the 1980s. It was her favorite chair. Growing up, it was in our living room in Louisville and upholstered in a rose-amber silk velvet, and the wood was a light stain that almost matched the velvet. When my parents moved to Coconut Grove, Florida, it was upholstered in this marvelous bold stipe of turquoise, black, white and hot pink. My mother passed away three days after 9/11. I inherited the chair, and since then, it has had two more incarnations. For the first, I had the wood painted white and upholstered in a pink-and-black snakeskin–it held a place of honor in my Miami Beach living room for a few years. In 2008, when I moved back to New York, I painted the wood black and upholstered it in gray velvet. Every time I look at the chair I am fondly reminded of my mother. Every time I sit in the chair I have a sense of power–it makes you sit up a bit straighter and the arms are a perfect height for resting. It is a generous width so it also allows for slouchy times. I just got a new place and will be working on the chair’s fifth incarnation–it’s very exciting!
When I started my business, I wanted to converge fashion and the fine arts with interior design. I had previously worked at an art gallery for three years, and I was greatly influenced by many of the artists from the gallery, including Damien Hirst. These Pierre Paulin chairs I re-covered were inspired by a blue-and-pink butterfly diptych by Hirst that represented man and woman. I love to ponder both masculine and feminine design and how men and women can be attracted to different furnishings but still come together. These were one of the first pieces I reimagined, and the thought and inspiration that went into them was a very important and learned process I would later apply to all my other pieces. Here, I used remnant fashion fabric from Oscar de la Renta–which makes these chairs even more special, as I purchased whatever fabric was left. These are chairs you can dream in and will transport you to a magical, imaginative world. They also represent love, happiness and the relationship between a man and a woman.
I’m currently commissioning this chair. It’s a traditional Bridgewater skirted armchair with a tight back, upholstered in a dark blue Jean Monro chintz. The pattern is called Rose & Fern and is made up of 85 different hand blocks. I love the timelessness and artistry of the pattern and iconic ease of this chair. From the cushion of this seat, I will map out my future, read my heart out, sketch and dream. Surely, dreaming in the perfect chair will make them come true.