HISTORY OF THE CLUB CHAIR
The club chair appeared in France at the start of the 20th century under the name of « fauteuil confortable » (easy chair) : as opposed to the “fauteuil de style” (armchair), straighter and less cosy.
The term “club” may be a reference to the gentlemen’s clubs existing at the time in the French and English colonies.
The form of the club chair evolved all through the 20th century. According to certain purists, the term should be reserved for those with elongated oval “bombshell” arms, those with straighter or narrower arms keeping the name of easy chair. As early as 1910, the Art Deco movement was designing chairs caracterised by pure, clean lines and simple curves, in opposition to Art Nouveau. After World War II, dozens of different models appeared. Some have survived the test of time, such as the “moustache” or the “chapeau de gendarme”, their names referring to the form of the back. The rounded form has become the reference of the club chair.
Designer, joiner, tanner, upholsterer or saddler, and colourist are the main craftsmen involved in the manufacturing of club chairs. They first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with an innovation in furniture : the use of biconical springs, not only in the seat but also in the back and arms. The bounce of the spring is softened by stuffing in organic fibre. Industrial progress has replaced this method of production by S-shaped springs or elastic webbing, covered in synthetic foam.
Seat coverings have changed with fashion and industrial techniques : imitation leather, velvet, calfskin, or more recently, bycast. Sheepskin leather or “basane” remains the authentic reference for club chairs. These skins of around 3 feet square are organically tanned. The caracteristic marks and defects of each skin appear through the tint, making each chair unique. Furthermore, with passing time, the fine grain of the leather confers a particular patina.
French leather was renowned throughout the world in the 19th century. “Basane”, notably, is a typically French product whose quality was unsurpassed in any other country. It takes six to eight basane skins to cover a club chair. They are applied when wet and stretched to the limit, before shrinking on drying. A club chair can last around 40 years.