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What are Club Chairs?

O. Wallace
O. Wallace

Club chairs are heavily upholstered chairs with arms and a low back, usually covered in leather. Reclining in nature, this easy going chair has its roots in 19th century English gentleman's clubs, where they no doubt served as the ultimate socializing and relaxation furniture. Club chairs evoke a picture of smoke-filled rooms decorated in heavy, masculine wood and leather worn to a comfortable patina. The 1920's saw a huge jump in the popularity of club chairs, which began their evolution from the overstuffed masculine English version to the many different models available today.

In the 1920's, club chairs could best be described as "the comfortable," most often dark in color and made of pig leather, with cushions covered in velvet and stuffed with feathers, straw or animal hair. Decorative nails often trimmed the chair. The mid-twenties ushered in the Art Deco era, and the design of club chairs took a more formal, scaled down turn. The use of cow and sheep hide became more prevalent and nails were used less frequently. The French made a huge leap forward in club chair design and came up with their own mutation, the Bauhaus-Wassily chair, proving that the club chair's old school reputation could be reinvented into something modern and sexy.

A good leather club chair can last for decades.
A good leather club chair can last for decades.

Throughout the 1940's, club chairs continued to be a mainstay of comfort furniture. World War II temporarily halted major production, but after the war, club chairs came back with a vengeance. Modern furniture making materials made it possible to replace the straw or animal hair padding with industrial foam. The traditionally rounded arms and back became more squared off and available in a variety of colors. America contributed to the development of club chairs with the Eames Chair in the 50's, and most recently, designer Philippe Starck proved that weatherproof, UV resistant, roto-molded polypropylene could take the form of an old-time favorite.

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    • A good leather club chair can last for decades.
      By: Paul Maguire
      A good leather club chair can last for decades.