By Marni Jameson
“Picture a set of scales, you know, the legal kind,” I say to DC. We are standing in the doorway of one of our upstairs bedrooms, which I’m arguing needs more furniture. My hands are out, palms facing the ceiling, shifting up and down.
Like most husbands faced with the prospect of more furniture, he’s wondering, why?
“The room is off balance,” I continue. “See, on one side we have the iron day bed, and a large piece of art, and on the other this dinky table.” I spread my arms like airplane wings and tilt precariously downward toward the side the bed is on.
“Like a see-saw,” he says.
“Exactly!” I say, like a fourth-grade teacher whose bored student suddenly gets long division.
“Only in design, what matters is visual weight, not actual weight, like with women,” I say, injecting an analogy I know he won’t touch with a 10-foot pole from 20- feet away. “That is, an armoire can weigh as much as a large tapestry — visually.”
DC nods, though I can tell he is about as interested in the concept of balance in room design as I am in why the Steelers signed Antonio Brown again, a subject that fascinates him, though I have no earthly notion why.
“So, we need a chair, a bold chair,” I say and head to the empty corner of the room and assume the position of a large chair. “See? Weight. Right. Here.”
“What kind of chair?” he asks in a resigned tone.
“Great question!” I seize the moment as a victory. “Perhaps an armchair, or a club chair, definitely not a wingback or a recliner, but maybe a slipper chair….”
I’ve lost him. He slinks out the door toward the stairs. “Just let me know what you decide.” His voice trails.
“I’m thinking bright yellow!” I call after him, then head for my laptop to shop online.
“I love your choice,” said Jackie Millazzo, online furniture merchant for The Home Depot, whom I called after my armless, tufted back, marigold yellow, linen chair arrived. I wanted to discuss the finer points of chair selection with someone who cared. I’d emailed her a photo of my new chair in place.
“It’s a great example of how one chair can add so much. It’s the perfect color, style and scale. I like how it’s placed, at an angle, and its clean lines modernize the room’s softer shapes.”
“It’s the definition of the term ‘accent chair,’” I say.
“As their name implies, accent chairs are a great way to add a little drama or personality to a room,” said Millazzo. “With a sofa, you don’t want to be too risky, so most people go with a neutral, but you can push the edge with an accent chair.”
“Like adding a colorful handbag to a sober outfit.”
“A well-placed, well-chosen chair can anchor a spot in a room that needs weight, add needed seating, bring in a design element, and inject a pop of color,” she said.
Our new marigold chair does all that.
“It’s Steeler yellow,” DC said, giving an approving thumbs-up.
“That’s why I picked it, Darling!”
As Millazzo and I chatted, I pulled up a chair, and together we deconstructed the act of buying a chair with flair.
- Before you think about style or color, decide why you want a chair. Do you want a big easy chair to curl up in by the fire? A stately chair or two to anchor a sofa? A fashionable armless slipper chair for a place where space is tight? An entryway chair for brief landings? Or a chair that can be versatile. I chose the chair I did partly because I can pull it into other rooms and it will work.
- Next focus on the chair’s lines. Study the chair in white, so you’re not influenced by color or pattern, and determine whether it’s traditional or modern, formal or casual. Be sure the design complements your decor. I wanted a contemporary chair to make an otherwise traditionally furnished room more transitional.
- Get the scale right. Whether you’re ordering online or from a showroom floor, envisioning a piece’s size in your space can be tricky. Note the height, depth and length, then map out how the piece will fit your space – and whether you can get it in the room. “To know how a chair will work and fit, you really need to see it in a room scene,” said Millazzo, who recommends online shoppers look for photos of the item in context with other furnishings.
- Though I am not suggesting you buy cheap furniture, you can get away with paying a little less for a chair used only occasionally, such as one in a secondary bedroom, than for a workhorse piece that will have lots of bodies flopping into it every day.
- Look at the colors in the surrounding space and ask what color you’d like to see more of to add color balance to the room. My room had a lot of cream, blue and brick tones, so I pulled the yellow from the printed drapery fabric, to add some pizzazz.
- Not long ago, I wouldn’t have considered ordering a piece of furniture online, let alone one that I would have to build. That’s not so today. My chair came in pieces, but took me only 10 minutes to assemble with an adjustable wrench, a supplied Allen wrench, and one page of clear instructions.
Online sales of accent furnishings – including accent chairs — grew 4.2 percent last year, and was the fastest growing category in online purchases, according to the Home Depot. More consumers are comfortable ordering furniture online because of easier return policies, and access to customer reviews, which share information about comfort, quality, and satisfaction.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the newly released Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.