Transform your cottage with chairs

Transform your cottage with chairs

Transform your cottage with chairs

IT CAN BE A head-scratching moment for any cottage owner when you look around an empty room and wonder, “how am I going to furnish this space?” The good news: you might already have all the furniture you need. All that’s missing is some know-how to group long-loved (if temporarily overlooked) pieces or a new statement chair for maximal impact. Here are 11 of our favourite finds from cottages that we’ve visited—and why, with a little rearranging or a few key adds, a chair can become your living room’s new centrepiece.

Open-air seating

Sprawling out in a hammock, which has roots in the Caribbean and the Indigenous cultures of South and Central America, is a favourite pastime for many cottagers. A hammock chair (top right) provides the same free-wheeling, rock-about whimsy. Bonus: the macrame knot work looks like art when the hammock isn’t in use. Shop the look: $76, Lowe’s.

All about texture

Guess what? That old, ’70s recliner (bottom right) that’s been kicking around forever at your cottage is back in style, you trend setter you. Coziness is everything with these retro gems, so the more velvet the better. Shop the look: $349,

Study the classics

The telltale, lathe-turned legs and spindle backs of Windsor chairs give any kitchen or dining room a farmhouse feel. They have roots in rural British craftsmanship, and despite lacking pads or cushions, they offer a surprising amount of support because of the way the saddles and backrests are curved. Windsors come in many varieties—some are simple with no armrests, others are more ornate with complex lines—but they all share the same sturdy charm. Shop the look: $359 for two, West Elm.

Go minimalist

The stripped-down lines of ’50s-style chairs (right) are subtle enough to mix-and-match with just about any other aesthetic or era. Adding a bit of upholstery (which tends to start at roughly $50–$100 per chair) can make a big difference in comfort, encouraging the kind of long, lingering conversations that cottage kitchens are made for. Shop the look: $315, Walmart.

Pop into a papasan

Papasan chairs (below) come from Southeast Asia. The word is a mix of the English “papa” for father and the Japanese honorific suffix “san,” though it’s not clear why: mamas and everyone else love them too. For centuries, they were composed of a rattan base and a puffy, upholstered cushion. When they became popular in North America in the ’70s, design alterations proliferated, including the minimal, sleek version here. Shop the look: $948, Wayfair.

An ornate option

White wicker peacock chairs (above), with curving backs that mimic the plumes of their namesake birds, are iconic patio perches from Asia. The originals are quite large, but a mini version is a clever way to bring a warm-weather vibe inside all year. Shop the look: Prices vary depending on size and intricacy, but options are available for as low as $100 on a resale site such as Kijiji or from popular vintage dealers such as LuvWantShop.

International inspiration

The Masters chair (bottom) is one versatile seat. It’s stackable for easy storage, made from plastic for inside-outside use, and has gently curving lines that work with many other design aesthetics. The seat’s many facets might come from its diverse roots. Designed in the early 2000s as a collaboration between France’s Philippe Starck and Catalan Eugeni Quitllet, the chair pulls inspiration from Danish, Finnish, and American modernism. Shop the look: Design Within Reach sells originals for $400 each, but convincing replicas are widely available.

Cool and sustainable

Sustainability is an ever-more important consideration for cottagers. Some solutions come from the past—rattan (top), for example, is a renewable fibre that’s been used to make furniture since ancient Egypt. The weaving technique became popular in the West because it was more breathable and comfortable than solid wood. Buying vintage or antique rattan boosts the environmental appeal, because the piece already exists and requires no new energy to produce. Shop the look: Etsy, Kijiji, and 1stdibs are all excellent places to look for vintage furniture, with pieces as affordable as about $100 for an armchair.

Now you see it…

Fold-away seats date back to at least the time of Tutankhamun—one was found in the boy king’s tomb. While his was made of wood, ivory, and gilded bronze, most cottage guests will appreciate ones with a simple padded seat and back, which is a pleasant upgrade from the standard, too-stiff steel kind. Shop the look: Bed Bath & Beyond, $193.

The comeback of vinyl

At a cottage, materials have to be hardy. At the very least, they have to withstand tracked-in mud, dirt, and sand. Colourful vinyl, like on vintage 1950s chairs, is one way to achieve durability without sacrificing style. Since vinyl production can have an ugly environmental footprint, choose vintage where possible. Shop the look: Check midcentury modern dealers (such as Guff in Toronto) that carry vintage vinyl for as low as $65 per chair.

Rock out

Rocking chairs are a uniquely North American invention dating back to the early 1700s. Whether they have a high or short back; are made from rattan or wood; look Victorian or minimal-modern; or whether they sit inside or outside—that slow back-and-forth motion never fails to induce a sense of calm. Shop the look: Loblaws, $335.

Matthew Hague wrote “A Deeper, Longer Breath,” in our October ’21 issue about his cottage on Lac Manitou, Que.

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