The name chaise longue might conjure up images of Victorian ladies reclining in endless gowns, Roman epicureans luxuriating at indulgent banquets, or stately homes where everything is fenced off with big red velvet ropes. But when you translate the French name to its more simplistic ‘long chair,’ well it all starts to sound a big more simple doesn’t it? And even, dare we say, invaluable?
The chaise longue or ‘long chair’ is quite literally a chair with an extended platform for the legs; a bit like a chair with a built-in footstool. Egyptian in origin, the first chaise longue were palm leaves lashed together. They evolved over the centuries and are present almost all over the world and in countless cultures. And they’re far more predominant in our lives than you’d think: in fact, you probably sit on one at least once a year – remember those white poolside sunloungers? We even derive the terms ‘lounge’ (a comfortable room to relax in) and ‘lounging’ (sitting around doing wonderful amounts of nothing) from the name.
Ok, so they’re everywhere. But why does that mean you need one in your very own lounge? Well, for starters, you don’t have to limit yourself to the living room. In a bedroom, the chaise longue can do fantastic double duty as a place to sit or nap. Why not have one in a cosy corner of the bedroom as a reading nook? Add a blanket in winter and you’ll barely want to move to the bed at night!
Or how about really going for some indulgence and adding a simple, sleek chaise longue to your bathroom? A wonderful place to sit and powder your feet, placed in front of the mirror for make up, or simply to make a statement in a bathroom intended to be a relaxing sanctuary.
In the living room, a chaise longue can become more than functional. A backless style divides up a room without cutting off the feeling of space, and set between other seating areas can provide seating for guests on both sides. Backed up against a wall, you can create lots of comfy cushioned seating for entertaining and still have a place to lie down when all the hubbub is over.
One of the most versatile choices, the chaise longue comes in any number of different variations. Modern shapes can curve down to the floor at the end, vintage styles are timeless with turned legs. Sleek square designs can bring a minimalist feel to a room, while a graphic retro print can be a feature in a bright space.
And of course, there are a number of different shapes well recognised throughout the world:
Duchesse brisee – literally broken duchess, this design is divided into two parts, with the footstool separate or three parts with a shared stool between the two seats.
Recamier – this style has two raised ends and is name after Madame Recamier who caused quite a stir when she was painted reclining on a chaise longue with – gasp! – naked feet!
Meridienne – named for the meridian, when you would traditionally nap on it, the meridienne chaise longue has a higher head rest and lower foot end, with the seat sloping to join the two.
Of course, there are endless variations on these traditional designs, with backless versions blurring the lines between the chaise longue and the day bed, curved backs, arms on both sides and many, many more. The chaise longue is not so much an elitist piece, but an endlessly versatile, multi purpose design triumph. Every living room, every bedroom and every other room you can think of can benefit from a well-placed, well-chosen chaise longue.