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Right at home: Traditional wing chairs with modern twist

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No matter how old you are, you might have grown up in a home with a wing chair.

This classic chair dates back a lot farther than any of us, according to Bronia Suszczenia, co-founder of the Yorkshire, England-based interior design firm Art from the Start. “The first wing chair appeared in the late 1600s, but it was not until after 1720 that its popularity became widespread,” she says.

Why the wings? A clue may be in the chair's alternate name, fireside chair. The idea was that the wings protected you from drafts, while the roomy, upholstered seat was a cozy spot from which to enjoy a cheery blaze.

The wing chair's enduring appeal is its comfortable, convivial nature, and its usefulness, says New York designer Charlotte Moss.

“It's the quintessential easy chair. It invites curling up and kicking back,” she says. “And they're wonderfully versatile. I like to use them at the heads of dining tables, or in a cozy corner with an ottoman, or two facing each other with a fireplace in between.”

Today's designers are having some fun with this classic style, tweaking its curvy silhouette, going wild or woolly with upholstery, and updating the legs in different colors or materials.

Pottery Barn's Hayes wing chair, for example, has a barrel-curved back and low-profile arms, so you can tuck your feet up. Leather hues include caramel, forest green, midnight and berry red. The smaller-scaled Manning chair, in a cream-hued fabric, sports chic contemporary button tufting; it'd be a nice choice for a master bedroom. (www.potterybarn.com )

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams' Emmet chair hybridizes a wing and club chair. In buttery, aniline leather, it's a welcoming spot to settle. (www.mgbwhome.com )

At Rove Concepts, Danish modern designer Hans Wegner's classic Wing chair is offered in leathers and cashmere, tweed and boucle wool. (www.roveconcepts.com )

An exaggerated wingback and arms characterize Wegner's 1951 Papa chair. He named it for its distinctive sculptural arms, which resemble a big bear's paws. France and Son offers it in fun midcentury modern hues like orange, teal blue and olive. (www.franceandson.com )

Arne Jacobsen's iconic Egg chair for Fritz Hansen (available at Design Within Reach) is a biomorphic take on the wing chair; its fluid curves and swivel base have kept it a favorite of modernist aficionados for almost 60 years. (www.dwr.com )

Tom Dixon's Wingback collection is the British designer's update on the wing chair and its 18th century cousin, the balloon back. The chairs and sofas have a sexy swagger, in luscious Kvadrat fabric upholstery and ebony or blond oak legs. (www.tomdixon.net )

The angles of Italian midcentury design inspire West Elm's new Marcelle wing chair, with dramatically scaled aniline leather wings and arms. The Hemming swivel chair nods to classic Danish design, with a low-slung and roomy seat, enveloping high back and wings. Two new colors: rich caramel-toned saddle, and an inky Aegean blue. (www.westelm.com )

Toronto firm Powell & Bonnell's Chatsworth reading chair takes a different approach. The chair is armless, and sleek planes form the wings, giving the piece an urbane sophistication. (www.powellandbonnell.com )

Tov Furniture's Gramercy wing chair, upholstered in a luxe, golden-toned, crocodile-printed velvet, shows off a sexy set of faceted Lucite legs. (www.tovfurniture.com )

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