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The History of the Chaise Longue

The History of the Chaise Longue

What is a Chaise Longue?

The chaise longue (pronounced “shayz long”, the literal English translation from French for which is “long chair”) has in recent decades become more popularly known and pronounced as chaise lounge in English-speaking countries. A combination of “chair” in french (“chaise”) and the verb “lounge” in English, becoming “chaise lounge”. This is due to persistent mis-spelling amongst English speakers, eventually leading to both spellings and pronunciations being accepted as correct. Often, the french for chair, “chaise” is dropped completely in favour of simply calling a chaise lounge a “lounge chair”.

It refers to any long upholstered chair on which you can recline. In other words, it’s an upholstered chair long enough to allow you to put your feet up. In popular culture especially the chaise longue is traditionally associated with neoclassic French-style boudoirs or, on the other end of the spectrum, the offices of psychoanalysts originating with the Victorian style of chaise longue.

Unlike modern daybeds that serve dual functionality as both a sofa-like seat by day and a bed by night, chaise longues aren’t really designed for sleeping but lounging, assuming a posture of somewhere between sitting up and lying down.

The Chaise Longue in Ancient Egypyt

From excavations of ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists suspect that the long chairs found there are the earliest historical examples of the origins of the chaise longue, dating back to around 3000BC. For the affluent, the frame would be constructed in wood and feature an ivory or ebony veneer. Earlier still, and for the less affluent Egyptians, these items of furniture were most likely made from palm sticks and wicker.

The Chaise Longue in Ancient Greece

Reclining in a long chair whilst dining or socialising was normal practice for the Greeks during 8th century BC. In Ancient Greece, the chair was known as a kline or klinai. The kline would be draped in layers of fabrics and have cushions propped up against the headrest. They were popular for Greek symposiums; social gatherings where men would drink and converse amongst each other in rows of these kline couches against three walls facing the door.

The Chaise Longue during the Roman Empire

Much like the chaise longue in Ancient Greece, the Romans also took a shine to reclining during meal times and banquets. There was even a name for assuming this posture to eat: accubatio, the act of reclining at the table. The Roman chaise longue was known as a lectus. The Romans, however, hadn’t quite mastered the art of upholstery and so the lectus would be crafted in wood and stacked with cushions for comfort. Many customs and aesthetic features of the Greek symposium were adopted by the Romans who enjoyed banqueting and merry-making in a similar fashion. This was called a comissatio and refers to the social after-dinner drinking that would last long into the night.

Symposium

The Modern Chaise Longue

The modern chaise longue that we are now more commonly accustomed to was first popularised during the 16th century in France. They were specifically designed by french furniture craftsmen for aristocrats to lounge and rest in the company of friends or alone during the day. During the 1800s, the chaise longue developed more feminine connotations as a decadent throne for women to rest during the day without having to go to their bedroom. It was during the French Rococo period that the chaise longue became a symbol of social status and were ornately crafted from only the rarest and most expensive of materials.

Today, the chaise longue isn’t seen as a typical furniture requirement but a luxury or novelty for the modern home. They are often used to complement a home’s décor outside of the bedroom, and used as a stylish boudoir chair for bedroom seating and somewhere to sit to put shoes and socks on while getting ready. Due to the nature of the chair, they should be placed in areas of the home that encourage leisure. So you will typically find the chaise longue in the bedroom, sunroom, reading room or anywhere in the house or garden where one might relax. Though most plush chaise longues are not designed for outdoor use.

Types of Chaise Longue

Duchesse brisée… Récamier… Méridienne… What’s the difference?

Méridienne

Meridiénne

You’re probably most familiar with the méridienne style of chaise longue. These are the most typical model of chaise longue in modern furniture, and feature an asymmetrical back and headrest. A méridienne allows you to recline sideways at an angle comfortably, leaning back without fear of falling backwards off the chair. Méridienne chaise longues are usually padded and upholstered to provide maximum comfort.

Récamier

Madame Récamier

Unlike the méridienne, the Récamier chaise longue will usually be symmetrical with each end raised to serve as headrest and footrest. There is no “back” to the chaise longue, however either end of the Récamier can be used as a backrest. The Récamier is named after Madame Récamier who popularised the style of chaise longue in 1800 after posing on one for her portrait (shown above), painted by Jacques-Louis David.

Duchesse Brisée

Duchesse Brisée

The duchesse brisée (which translates as “broken duchess”) is named this way as the chaise longue comprises two (or sometimes three) separable parts: the chair and the long footstool which can be joined together to form the chaise longue, or used as separate furniture items.


Interested in adding a luxurious chaise longue to your own furniture collection?

The chaise longue is an elegant addition to the modern home, and at Frances Hunt we’ve made it easy to buy the ideal chaise longue to match your décor and colour scheme. You can choose from the Athens or Luxor style of Méridienne chaise longue, both of which are available in a choice of 30 different fabrics and 11 different leg finishes. So if you would like a silver floral upholstered chaise longue with a cyan leg finish, we are able to build this for you. Fabric swatches are available upon request. You can also choose whether you would prefer the chaise to be left hand facing or right hand facing.

luxor-chaise-longue

Luxor Traditional Chaise Longue

Athens Chaise Longue

Athens Bedroom Chaise Longue

Holly Dawson

is a regular contributor to Frances Hunt’s blog with a real insight to the goings on at Frances Hunt. Her content varies from 'Pick of the Week' where she outlines the latest deals and newest trends available at Frances Hunt, to where Frances Hunt have featured latest in the upcoming furniture magazines

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