A slipper chair is armless and has a low seat cushion. The short legs and lack of arms define the chair, but since it can be manufactured in any style, it has endless possibilities as an accent piece or solution to a space shortage. Slipper chairs show up in bedrooms and boudoirs, where they got their start, living rooms and even dining rooms, in ornate polished woods, utilitarian fabrics and metal, or entirely swathed in pleated slipcovers.
European and American Couture Accessory
During the Victorian era, women wore so many layers of petticoats, camisoles, corsets, skirts and various fabric layers that they needed a low, open seat so as to put on their hose and shoes. Slipper chairs were designed to fit the bill. The seats are about 15 inches from the ground, and no arms meant that those voluminous skirts could spread out over half the dressing room while her ladyship donned her slippers. The chairs were typically wood-framed and upholstered, but they might be very plain and slip-covered, all-over padded, upholstered and tufted, matched to fancy decor with embroidered brocade fabric and trim, or simple, boxy and covered in serviceable linen or cotton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an elaborately carved rosewood, high-backed, sapphire brocade-upholstered slipper chair in the Rococo style, made in mid-19th century New York.
Best in the Boudoir
Slipper chairs earn their keep in the bedroom or a dressing area, even though no one is as encumbered by massive skirts as the ladies who inspired the original chairs. They slip into a corner, without cluttering up the landscape, to provide a quick seat for taking off or putting on shoes or tricky outfits. Cover a simple L-shaped chair with short wood legs in a shiny stripe, gem-toned velvet or bold damask pattern to reflect bedroom decor. Try a wide navy and silver striped slipper chair slipcover in an ice-blue bedroom with a gunmetal duvet cover and drapes and an Art Deco mirrored dresser.
Short on Space Solution
Guests in your tiny studio may prefer a low seat to no seat. A slipper chair is unobtrusive but lets your limber friends take a load off in a small furniture footprint. You could tuck two slipper chairs in the corners, or place them side-by-side to face a loveseat. Let the chairs shine with safari-printed upholstery in zebra or tiger stripes. Add small ikat pillows, and they take on a more formal air. Cover a slipper chair in tobacco-colored distressed leather as an accent piece in an eclectic room full of found treasures that don't match but are interesting enough to seem like intentional, if off-beat, decor.
Short-legged slipper chairs won't work with your normal height dining table, but you can use them around a coffee table or a low snack or games table for grabbing a quick bite. Unbleached linen slipcovered chairs nestle comfortably in a corner of the living room, or in front of a drapery-flanked picture window, around a low natural wood table. Whitewashed, carved wood slipper chairs with faded lilac velvet seats are a high-style addition to your shabby chic-themed eat-in kitchen when paired with a cut-down pedestal table, also distressed and whitewashed. When you don't have a dining room, slipper chairs do double-duty as conversation-area seating by the couch and dining chairs next to a low end table pulled away from the sofa for meals.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .