Decorating Around a Vintage Chair (A Chairish Challenge)

Olivia Palermo • Decorating Around a Vintage Chair (A Chairish Challenge)


Vintage marketplace Chairish challenged me to design a room around one of their vintage chairs… Here’s what I came up with.


When online vintage marketplace Chairish asked me to design a room around one of their vintage chairs, I knew I had to start by picking a fictional client (see exhibit OP above). For the purpose of the challenge, this gal lives in NYC, works in fashion, leads a busy lifestyle, is a little short on space but needs a space that’s just as suited for winding down, or entertaining for a few girlfriends (or a date)!

I was initially hesitating between a few chairs (this one and this one were both strong contenders), but as soon as I found this artwork, I knew the denim Z chair was the way to go. Everything else came together naturally after that.

Decorating Around a Vintage Chair (A Chairish Challenge) on @SavvyHome




Don’t be afraid to re-upholster a chair with good bones. Most vintage chairs (midcentury especially) don’t require a lot of fabric and they are easy to re-upholster.


Repeat the color or pattern of a fabric. This will create continuity in the room. For example, the denim fabric in this room is repeated in the denim jacket in the photography on the wall.


Don’t try to match the wood. Don’t pass up a great vintage chair because you’re afraid the wood tones won’t match your floors or other furniture you have. As long as you break the room up with plenty of textures, patterns and textiles, the different wood tones will blend together.


Keep a neutral base. If you’re hunting for the perfect vintage chair for a room, try to keep the main furnishings neutral. This will increase your changes of making everything blend together well.


Dress it up. Vintage chairs often come with minor wear and tear, small stains, etc. If the blemishes are not big enough to justify an upholstery or refinishing job, dress up the chair with a pillow or a throw.


Be consistent with the period. To avoid making your room look like a flea market stall, be aware of the period of the chair, and add a few other pieces reflective of the same era in the room. You don’t have to re-create a retro wonderland—a simple lamp, rug or artwork will suffice.


Bring it up to today’s taste. Now that you’ve paid attention to the period of the chair, bring it up to today’s taste with contemporary artwork or a trendy piece of lighting.



Midcentury Selig Style Walnut Z Chair | Calypso St. Barth Icelandic Sheepskin Rug | Lambert & Fils Beaubien Sconce | Trenched Glam By Ulrich Knoblauch | St. Frank Amber Fort II | Stilnovo Grasshopper Floor Lamp | Kelly Wearstler Monolith Side Table | West Elm Steven Alan Sofa | Anthropologie Folkthread Coffee Table | The Line Beni Ourain Rug | Mud Australia Porcelain Tear Vase