The Art & Science of Chair Styling

Everyone has their own process for chair styling. Who is say one is better than the other? It’s all about what works for you. Yesterday I gave a free workshop explaining my process for chair design. (You can watch it by clicking here.) It’s both an art and a science in my opinion. It’s science in that I do go through methodical steps but it’s also art because it involves the imagination and an artistic eye. Here’s my process in a nutshell.

Getting Inspired

It always begins by getting inspired by either chairs or fabrics. Sometimes it’s the fabrics that get me thinking about a new design and then I have to go find chairs that work with my idea. Other times I have a set of chairs and I’m hunting down just the right fabric to give a dynamic look. I can never predict which it will be. This fabric below by Schumacher is one I’ve been inspired by for a while.

Picking Chairs

I do most of my hunting on Marketplace, Craigslist, and online auctions like Live Auctioneers. I search for antique chairs, French chairs, and Victorian chairs to get the best selection in my area. This settee is the perfect piece for the fabric above, so you’ll probably see my ideas coming together very soon on this one.

Here’s a settee that I’ll be redoing soon.

Brainstorming Fabrics

Sometimes I’ll have the top fabric, then I need to find the best seat fabric. My phone is filled with pictures showing possible combinations…most which never see the light of day.

I’m always trying to match the seat fabric to something that I see in the top fabric.
Here’s the final result.

Selecting Paint

I always say that the fabric drives the paint color. I never pick a paint without having the fabric decided first. And this is a time to start including neutrals like white, cream, black, gold, taupe, and navy. All these neutrals allow the fabric to shine instead of competing for attention.

Positioning Fabric

If you’ve heard me talk before or taken one of my courses, you’ll know that I always say that fabric placement is everything! The key is taking the time to play around with different ideas. You want it to look natural, but exquisite, too. That look comes from getting the right placement.

I’m always trying to get the best fabric placement.

Decorating the Room

Finally, you have to take into consideration the entire room. Because my chairs are so colorful, I always let my chairs drive the decor in a room. I use other textiles and paints to accentuate the chairs. Start with what is most comfortable then layer other things into the room.

If you’ve never thought of your own process for chair styling, no problem. I usually don’t think about it either unless I have to explain it to someone else. You just do what feels right and gets you results. But maybe by hearing my process of chair styling, you’ll be able to adapt some of it to work for you too!


I'm Wendy Conklin, The Chair Stylist.

What brings me joy is helping others live more creatively. I design antique-inspired, boutique chairs, and I teach others how to do what I do. Check out my shop, services, and courses to bring more whimsy into your home and life!

Check out my online courses to spark your creativity and upgrade your joy, starting today!


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