illustration by julia rothman
If you’ve been to a wedding, chances are you’ve sat in a Chiavari chair. From White House events to weddings all over the country, this chair is the workhorse of event chairs. Light, easily stackable, yet elegant – there is a reason that these guys make the wedding rounds.
Chiavari chairs are named for the Italian city where they originated. This little town, located between Genoa and the Cinque Terre, began producing these chairs at the beginning of the 19th century. (In a recent We Like It Wild column, one of the girls from Studio Choo recounted a flower-filled trip to Chiavari and the surrounding Cinque Terre towns!) It was here in 1795 that the Descalzi brothers opened their famous furniture workshop. In 1807, Gaetano Descalzi designed a light, elegant, yet solid, cherrywood chair – the chair Chiavarine.
a gathering at the home of mme. brisson, 1893 by marcel andré bashet from chairs: a history by florence de dampierre
Chiavari Chairs – Type of Balloon-Backed Chair
Chiavari chairs are actually a type of chair known as a balloon-backed chairs. The design was based on the Louis XV panel-back side chair – without the back upholstery. (Here’s a Louis chair refresher!) Some of these balloon-backed chairs were even made out of papier-mâché – and everyone had one – Queen Victoria, the Crown Prince Friedrich and even Napoleon III and his fashionable wife Eugénie had the Chiavari chairs at St.-Cloud and Fontainebleau.
chiavari chairs at the kennedy wedding via life magazine
The chair jumped from the dining room to the ballroom – and has become the classic wedding chair. It probably didn’t hurt tradition that the Kennedy’s used Chiavari chairs at their 900-guest wedding in 1953.
In 1957, Cassina manufactured Gio Ponti’s homage to the chairs that he had seen at the seaside – the Chiavari chairs. The Superleggera was advertised as being so lightweight that even a child could lift it with a single finger!
CLICK HERE for the rest of the post after the jump, including books to read for more info about Chiavari chairs and great sources for buying your own!
Books to Read
Chairs: a History by Florence de Dampierre – I love this book! Seriously one of my new favorites!
Chiavari Uses + Chair Sourcing
This simple Orchard Wedding becomes all-dressed with with the addition of gold Chiavari chairs!
You obviously don’t need to wait for “the big day” to use the chiavari chair! This is one of my favorite ideas from the fabulous Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. Jordan set up this table for a birthday celebration right in the middle of Aquatic Park pier in San Francisco (She calls it a Dinner Party in the Middle of Nowhere!) Jordan transported an entire four-course meal out here! Fun!
You can find your very own piece of Italian history at any chair rental company, but here are two recommended sources.