The Classic Elegance of a Klismos Chair

Two gray klismos chairs designed by Duncan Phyfe

The klismos chair is a classic in the truest sense of the word. It’s a style that originated with the ancient Greeks and has stood the test of time. Although it has been modified throughout history, its silhouette remains the same. I find it fascinating that the same chairs depicted on ancient pottery pieces still bring elegance to modern homes today. They are exquisite pieces of furniture, and I just love the sophistication they add to any space. Their elegance is similar to that of the sedie from Sotow’s Luigina Collection, which wrote about recently.

What Is a Klismos Chair?

The word “klismos” is of Greek origin taken from the word “Klino,” which means, “a cause to lean.” No one knows exactly what the original klismos chair looked like, but the depictions left behind give us an idea of its development. For example, we know that it originally had a braided seat. What defines the signature shape of a klismos chair is its curved saber legs and concave back. The front legs are curved forward and the back legs rearward. The rear legs and back were often made from the same piece of wood, creating a sweeping S shape. The top of the backrest is generally around shoulder height.

Wooden klismos chair with red seat cushion

The Evolution of the Klismos Chair

Although the klismos chair has been around for a while, the chair reached its greatest popularity in 5th century BC when its shape was perfected. Its exact shape has evolved only slightly since then. In the Hellenistic period, after 323 BC, the back became thicker making the chair heavier. The klismos chair was so popular at that time that the Romans also adopted it. Their version was even heavier than the Hellenistic one.

18th Century

The klismos chair regained popularity many times in history. In the late 18th century, the shape was revived throughout Europe in Western Neoclassical-style furniture. The chair was most prominent in French Directoire, English Regency, and Empire styles.

19th Century

Since then, the shape has continued to be reinterpreted. One of the most famous interpretations of the klismos chair is by Samuel Gragg of Boston, MA at the beginning of the 19th century. He named his version of klismos chairs Elastic Chairs and patented the design. The patent was signed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. This chair was known as a fusion of the classical past and the industrialized future.

"Elastic Chair" by Samuel Gragg

20th Century

Another famous example of the klismos chair was created by Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings. He created a klismos with a woven seat, much like the original klismos designs, in 1937. This chair is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

The Klismos Chair in Modern Design

Today, the iconic klismos chair, known for its graceful curves, has taken on a more modern style. Since klismos chairs are lightweight, they balance well with heavier furniture pieces. This makes them great accent chairs. I also find them to be great dining chairs.

Want more dining room inspiration? Check out this blog post.

West Elm and other furniture companies are even creating fusion pieces based on the klismos chair. The chair pictured below is an example of a “Scandi-Greek” style that puts “a Scandinavian-mod spin on the classic Greek Klismos chair.” You can purchase this chair on the West Elm website.

White klismos dining chairs from West Elm paired with a brown wooden table

Find Your Klismos

There are many versions of the klismos chair to choose from today. You can find them padded or upholstered. They can come with or without arms. They are also available in many different materials, such as wood, metal, and lucite. With all of the choices out there, you are sure to find one that will match your own tastes and preferences.

The sleek look of the klismos chair instantly makes any space more stylish. Although it fits many settings, the chair’s graceful charm makes it perfect for feminine and Parisian style rooms. Whatever style you choose, these classics will be sure to add an extra level of elegance to your home. The best part is that you won’t have to worry about these chairs going out of style. I’m confident this style is here to stay and will continue to inspire furniture design in the years to come.

Warm regards,