The Parsons Chair: A Staple of Contemporary Design

Parsons chairs are so ubiquitous today that it’s hard to believe they were first created in the 1930s—almost 100 years ago. They are truly a modern classic! Part of the appeal of the Parsons Chairs is that they are simple, versatile, and fit with many different styles.

The History of the Parsons Chair

The first Parson chairs were created in Paris by designers at the renowned Parsons School of Design. The designers used the best parts of historical influences to design this chair. Its main traits of naturalism, simplicity, and linear design are inspired by the classic Modernist style. Designed with comfort in mind, the chairs were lightweight and the first to have a cushioned seat. At that time, most padded chairs were lumpy and heavy. The design of the chair also went against the popularity of excessive carving and ornamentation at the time.

At first, designers crafted Parsons chairs from hardwood with a tall, squared backrest and slightly curved legs. The original chairs were upholstered in leather, giving them an expensive look. Although originally created as a set with the Parsons table, people often purchased them separately. Now, the table and chairs are rarely sold as a set. 

The Parsons Chair Today

The design of Parsons chairs hasn’t changed much. Many are almost direct clones of the original. However, there are many variations in how the chair is upholstered. Although there are still leather versions, most are upholstered in microfabrics. They are many different patterns, colors, and materials available today. While most still have tall backs, they can vary in height. 

Other variations of the Parsons chair include chairs with cabriole legs or Chippendale-influenced designs. Many reflect an Art Nouveau or Art Deco influence. Some come tufted, and some have armrests. There are also many slipcovers specifically made for Parson’s chair, so it’s easy to change up its appearance. Some slipcovers cover up the legs, creating a solid, monumental look.

Parsons chairs are comfy and lightweight, and most of them are easy to clean, making them the ideal dining chairs. Therefore, you will find them most often in dining rooms. They are even popular in restaurants and often associated with fine dining and elegant dining rooms. Although they are most popular in dining rooms, their versatility allows them to fit nicely in any room. You can use a single chair in a living room to bring in a different color or texture.


Navy blue Parsons chairs in a navy blue dining room

This dining set with the midnight blue Parsons chairs is gorgeous. The medium-toned wood with lush velvet creates a beautiful contrast. The rich blue walls bring out the colors in the chairs and tie the whole room together.

Plaid Parsons chairs in a classically designed dining room

These Parsons chairs have a fun plaid pattern. It can be challenging to mix multiple prints in a room, but Jessica Chastain does it well in her New York dining room. With so many unique elements, this room is definitely not lacking in character.

A Parsons chair with a funky pattern used as an accent chair in a living room

Since Parsons chairs are so comfy, they make great additions to living rooms. This Parsons Chair has a funky pattern that adds an eclectic vibe to this cozy living room. 

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Gray Parsons chairs in a modern dining room

This dining set is very elegant. The gray pattern matches well with the Sputnik chandelier. This look is very sleek and a little bit futuristic.

Modern variation of a Parsons chair with a cut-out back

These stylish Parsons chairs offer a more updated and modern look. Its slight modifications include a lower height and cutout back. The gray legs and two-toned color palette make these chairs look extra chic.

Find Your Parsons Chair

With maximum comfort and so many colors and styles to choose from, you can’t go wrong with a Parsons chair. They are easy to blend into any decor. They have become a staple and there’s no doubt they will continue to be in the years to come.


Check out another classic chair, the Klismos Chair »