Megan Fulweiler: Sitting Pretty

November 8, 2011

I have a favorite chair. We discovered it in a nineteenth-century Greek Revival house we bought in upstate New York a zillion years ago. The abandoned armchair sat in the corner as if it knew that’s where its cream-colored damask upholstery and walnut wood trim–in perfect condition–would catch a flattering light.

The house has long been sold, but the chair remains. Slipcovers, while keeping the old girl current, hide its decorative detail. Still, it’s cozy, remarkably comfortable (a testament to its pedigree) and a dear friend. It’s seen me through happy times and tears. And at the end of every day, it’s a sweet sanctuary.

But that said, I covet most chairs. Straightforward high-backs, mid-century Danish creations, wicker rockers and bentwoods–there’s no end to my list. I’m always on the lookout and lose my heart easily, most recently to a pair of classy tufted seats on casters. Providence interior designer Kelly Taylor was revamping Newport’s historic Vanderbilt Grace Hotel (a great weekend getaway, by the way) when she came across the shapely duo. “I loved those chairs,†she explains. “They were existing at the hotel and were from a handful of upholstered pieces we kept.†Taylor cleverly updated her finds with a modern Knoll fabric and relocated them in the handsome reading niche she created in the hotel lobby. Along with the sun-kissed color of the bookshelves, the chairs evoke warmth–something New Englanders crave in winter.

Library at Newport’s Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, designed by Kelly Taylor; photo by Scott Lapham

Cozying-up must be on my mind. My three other new favorite chairs–all from Serena & Lily–are antidotes to the chill, too. The French-deco Avignon chair, dressed in my choice of Saffron/Putty Diamond fabric, makes me think of Florida. And look at that shape! Even a snowy landscape couldn’t dampen this slipper seat’s hot persona.

Serena & Lily Avignon chair; all photos courtesy of

Serengeti cowhide gives Serena & Lily’s Canyon chair–with nailhead trim–a delicious tactile advantage. And, surely, that slightly backward-leaning silhouette induces relaxation. I envision these in a cool, contemporary room paired with steel and glass. But they’d be equally at home in a bookish study.

Serena & Lily Canyon chair

Never mind the lack of upholstery, the Beckett chair, with its classic British campaign flavor, is incredibly welcoming in tone. Crafted of sheesham wood (a fast-growing sustainable hardwood also known as Indian rosewood), this seat sports a matte oil finish that highlights the handsome grain.

Serena & Lily Beckett chair

–Megan Fulweiler
Megan Fulweiler is a freelance writer. A frequent contributor to New England Home and the author of three books on decorating, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Country Living, Traditional Home and The New York Times.

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