The Mystery Chair

Take a look at the following five bedrooms. Notice anything they all have in common?  I’ll wait while you scroll down and view each one.

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The first three bedrooms were designed by Mario Buatta. The fourth is a bedroom in the home of Designer, Bunny Williams. I’m not sure who designed the last bedroom, wish I knew.

Bedroom by Mario Buatta

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 Did you notice anything common to all five bedrooms?

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The chair. Each bedroom has a pretty chair positioned right beside the bed. See it there near the foot of the bed facing back toward the wall? The chair is located on the left side of the bed in all of the rooms designed by Mario, as well as in this bedroom below in Bunny’s home.

Bunny-Williams-Bedroom

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 It’s located on the right side of the bed in this room.

Beautiful Bedroom

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So what do you think?

Is this a well-known design element, maybe something dating back in English design? I have to admit, I kind of like how it looks there. :)

I don’t think the chair is there as a place to sit while putting on or taking off shoes because all of  the above rooms have plenty of other seating areas. It’s not needed to hold bedtime reading because each bed has bedside tables.

Is it a place where a visitor might sit if they stop by and the man or lady of the house is still in bed? I remember once reading about a somewhat eccentric lady of the house in Savannah who regularly entertained visiting guests from her bed. She was notorious for it and her guests apparently loved it. Was that story in the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Anyone remember?

Is it a place to sit and enjoy a morning cup of coffee? I don’t think I’d care to sit facing a wall, though.

Ummm, I’m leaning toward a place where a visitor could sit because it’s facing back in the general direction of the head of the bed.

It would take some getting used to, having a chair right beside the bed. I can just imagine getting up for a drink of water in the middle of the night and still half asleep, running straight into it. Guess that would only happen once, after which one would always remember to make a wide berth around the chair. ;)

So, what do you think? What purpose does the mystery chair serve?

I bet Bunny Williams or Mario Buatta could tell us.

Love beautiful bedrooms? You’ll find more here: Mario Buatta: Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration




Comments

  1. Do a bit of research on the salon movement. I suspect the bedside chair is a nod to that bit of heritage. And yes, I believe it was the movie to which you referred, that wonderful broadly-painted pistol-carrying character, who received visitors in her bedroom–in keeping with the personage of the salon. BTW, have you featured Johnny Mercer’s home in your “movie” houses? What a great house! The movie was based on John Berendt’s book, which I have not read–was the pistol-carrying character included in the original work?

  2. Peggy Thal says:

    Very interesting! I love the look but I am not sure it would work. My husband would probably trip over it or the chair would be a clothes collector. It could be fun having visitors sitting next to your bed but I would have to get redressed for bed with makeup and all. Love the rooms, just beautiful. Thanks Susan , you are very observant.

  3. Hello Susan, First and foremost the chair fills an awkward space (for photographs). It’s the perfect place to stack a few books the kind you would like to peruse while lying in bed. It’s also a lovely spot for a pretty morning robe or a beautiful silk shawl to have ready for cool nights. ox, Gina

  4. Mary from Virginia says:

    What a good eye you have! I would not have picked up on the bed side chair. My great aunts all had what are family refers to as ‘bedroom” chairs. They are small in size and have pretty fabrics. I inherited two from my great Aunt Helen and my paternal grandparents. I am in the process of having them reupholstered.

    For me, that side chair would be a pain to get around in order to make the bed, and knowing me, I would stump my toe! :)

    Hope you are having a fun Saturday.

  5. I am not as forgiving as you. The first time I bumped into that chair it would find a new home further from the bed. Designer’s rooms are so beautiful but often impractical. I would also like to know why these designers put the chair in the same area. Great post!

  6. Can’t say that I know the purpose but I’m oddly intrigued and might have to try it!

    -Brittany Ruth

  7. How quirky! Looks like something to trip over like you said…very interesting. Almost appears to be a chair to visit the ailing. However, when I’m sick, I really don’t want visitors! Enjoy your weekend! ;)

  8. Susan–I think you may be right about it being in Midnight in the Garden…Also think of women who were “confined” during the latter stages of pregnancy, because it was improper to show one’s expanding belly. They often received a friend or relative in their chambers. (I probably sound like I’m 90 years old here!)

  9. Since it is only one chair on one side of the bed, I think it is for placing your robe at night time and placing the robe on in the early morning.

  10. I’d use it as a step stool to get up in those high beds.

  11. Even way back when I was a teen, I noticed this placement in my mother’s dec mags. I had inherited my grandma’s old room and furniture by then, and funny thing… She always kept the low chair In Her room in this same place. She did use hers for putting on her shoes. I guess it was on the other side of the bed that she otherwise got up from. It was a very humble chair, nothing French or fancy like these. Now, I use it to sit in out in the garage when I am painting furniture and need to be low to the floor.

  12. Women of wealth usually had a personal assistant/maid that did nothing but take care of their day to day scheduling of events, clothing choices, updates on guests arriving or staying at the house, etc. My guess is that the chair was there for the assistant to sit in to give the woman of the house a run down of the day’s upcoming events while she was having breakfast in bed. After breakfast was over, the assistant would help her get dressed for the first event of the day and then get the housemaids in to tidy the room. It probably also would have been used for guests who visited in the room, particularly the husband, who would not have climbed into bed during non-sleeping hours. Extremely wealthy couples would have had a private room between the woman’s bedroom and the man’s bedroom to meet in the morning, eat breakfast and go over the days events before getting dressed and entering into any public areas of the house where they could have been seen by guests.

  13. Very nice..the all blue room is a bit much for me..I love all the elements of blue in there..just not all of them at once…that chair by the bed..it would have to be on the side I don’t sleep on..or I’d be tripping over it every night.

  14. Rosie Moreno says:

    I agree with the last comment. My first thought was that it probably started out as a small chair for holding a robe at night, but the chair got a more elaborate look as the design got popular. Clothes storage was so limited before closets (only armoires, etc.) and I’ll bet robes were more important when heating options were just fireplaces. So I could see the need for a place to keep a robe nearby before jumping into a bed warmed by ” bedwarming pans” and surrounded by drapes that could surround the bed. Then in the morning, having the robe nearby in a cold room in the morning. Or, have I just seen too many movies inspired by Jane Austen books?

  15. It’s funny, but when I saw the title of your post I was intrigued because I have a post coming up Monday that has a similar title but for a very different reason. (There were some odd happenings at the cabin last weekend.)

    So I thought you were referring to the fact that a ‘random’ chair appears in each pic and I was concentrating on that. In the first pic there is a chair near the sliders which looks odd to me and then in the second pic I saw a chair by the bed, etc. then once I read what you were referring to I realized the chair by the sliders has nothing to do with anything (but it’s still odd IMO).

    I’m not a fan of having a chair by the bed. Seems a bit impractical and over the top…but then again Buatta is not known for restraint ;). I have no idea what the custom was for, but I’m guessing it is for guests too.

    Very interesting post Susan!

  16. Beautiful bedrooms! I’d love sleeping in any one of them, but the second and fourth are my favorites. My poor husband would never tolerate a chair by the bed. He has enough trouble getting past the cedar chest at the foot of our bed and it has been there forever. Just the other day I heard him complaining to a friend about it. lol – regarding the seven cat pillows in the “blue” room.

  17. The chair in the same one side of the bed for all the bedrooms, lol.. I love all the chair choises. We have two reclining ones, his and hers, by the foot of the bed for our robes, or whatever else. I love all the bedrooms, though.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    FABBY

  18. I like it. I use a desk for my nightstand and I have one, of a set of 12, Duncan Phyfe dining chairs that I use at the desk. The chairs were dispersed through family members when a great-aunt passed away a long time ago. I set the chair out away from the desk so it is easier to sit down, think 1 o’clock, so it ends up being very close to the position of the chairs in your photos.

  19. I wonder if it is to use by your “make up” table or “jotting a quick note…” It, of course, has to coordinate! franki

  20. My MIL always had lovely well known designer decorated homes. In every one, there was a “guest” chair by the bed. Which side it was on varied by the room arrangement-but it was always a part of the decor. Supposedly, it was an integral part of master bedroom decorating so the head(s) of the home could comfortably receive close personal guests when they weren’t up to entertaining elsewhere in the home-such as when they were ill or had taken to their bed for other reasons. Interestingly, the chance of receiving someone in her boudoir is why my MIL always had a mirror,lipstick, and a comb in her bedside table. I think it’s a style element that harkens back to a gentler, more “proper” time. By the way, I have one of “those” chairs by my bed, too.

  21. I think it’s for a doggie, or maybe a cat.

  22. Susan, this is SUCH a neat post – I always wondered about that. I look at design photos with a practical eye nearly always and always thought that was obviously ridiculously “staged.” Who in his or her right mind would hazardly allow a chair right THERE? WELL………..certainly the infirm, yes. But just for design? Yikes. Never ever would I do it but I shall never look at those “staged weird oddly placed chairs” the same way again.

    Thank you for making me a tad smarter for learning this. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • I know, I’ve read so many articles and blog posts now about how rooms are staged, not sure what is “real” now when I see a room in a magazine. Guess it does may for a better photo, though.

  23. My first thought, when viewing these random chairs, was that it was for visitors when a person is bedridden. Kind of morbid when it’s done in a home where people are perfectly healthy. I do LOVE Theresa’s idea of the “Women of Wealth”. How very romantic that seems!!! Either way, you won’t be finding a chair like that in my bedroom. I’m sure it would cause me great bodily harm!!! Hahahaha!

  24. All of the beds are pretty tall. Maybe to help the rising mademoiselle exit the bed gracefully?

  25. I don’t think I would like a chair positioned in that particular spot in my room no matter how large or small the bedroom. Seems a bit awkward to me…but I do have a coffee table that sits parallel to my bed with about 1-1/2 foot space between bed and table, where I keep the stack of books or magazines I am currently reading. Instead of a night table, I use a perfect height bookcase which is also loaded with favorite books, lamp, clock and cobalt glass candle holder.

    Love blue, and have had blue and white bedroom in the past, but do not care at all for that blue room…too much of the same color. I prefer to combine several shades of blue to relieve the monotony ;-)

    • Sonia, I love the bookcase idea for holding nightime reading. I noticed Bunny has a bookcase just a few feet away from her bed. So you’re in good company…designing with the best of them! :)

  26. Great post and comments! I really like the thinking about the chair being there for the housekeeper or cook and also the hubs…really fun.

    Also – what the heck is happening to the leg on the bed in the Bunny Williams room? Looks like it’s about the collapse. :)

    Ann

    • Ann, that is so strange because it doesn’t look like that in her book. I pulled her book off the shelf to see if she mentions about the chair beside her bed (she doesn’t) and the bed looks fine in the book. I guess something happened to the photo when the site where I found it loaded it to their website because it looks the same on their site, too.
      Unfortunately, I can’t find another photo of the room online so I guess we’re stuck with that picture. I would scan the page from her book but the book is so large it won’t fit on my copier. You have good eyes to notice that. I’ve used that photo twice and never noticed it.

  27. I definitely think it is a “visitor’s chair”. I inherited a very small wing back chair from my aunt when she passed. It was my favorite chair in her home because it fit me so well. It was situated in her bedroom – not beside the bed, but in a comfortable position to converse…..and that we did…..especially in her last year. I reupholstered it in a cream matelasse’ and it resides in my bedroom. I absolutely LOVE it and use it all the time to watch TV . The other rooms in my house have cathedral ceilings, but my MBR does not and it’s so much warmer in there in the cold winter months.

    Thanks for this post. While all the rooms were beautiful, my favorite was the second one. Love the soft aqua.

    Trish

  28. Leslie Reeves says:

    Have seen chairs beside the bed for several years and the use…….. For the dog to make it up to the bed. Charles Fadre’s brother atcually makes them too . :). Sure they have many uses but know this is a good one as I too have an old dog and she needs that chair to come to bed, we love those pets.

  29. I would have to say the “lady’s maid”. I’ve seen it in movies many times.
    I am very fond of these time period pieces. I’ve got to say I sadly don’t remember the movie that is stuck
    In my head! Dang it! But the lady’s maid sits here either during breakfast in bed,
    Which was a Dailey thing, or right after breakfast. Knowing they women took
    Breakfast in bed, everyday, it would have to stand for reason… It was for someone to
    sit there and go over the schedule, or the husband to talk to her.
    I’m going to goggle it!

  30. When I was eight years old my parents bought their first house, built in 1938. I was given a room with chintz wallpaper, green carpet, and two “slipper” chairs upholstered in silk fabric identical to the wallpaper. I’d guess it would be like Waverly’s lines of matching fabrics and wallpapers. I still have one of the chairs, but the silk fabric is in shreds. I have a large piece of Waverly fabric draped and pinned over it, and use it when clients come to my office. Someday I’ll have it reupholstered, but it is a lovely reminder of an earlier age.

    • Barbara, I love that! I know you did too. Sounds like you had a room any little girl would have loved. :) Amazing the memories a piece like that can hold. I’m blogging about a chair on Monday that is filled with memories.

  31. Susan,
    A mystery, indeed!
    Intriquing!!!
    Fondly,
    Pat

  32. Call me quirky, call me British, as I am, but I have a small bed chair. It is not facing the wall, but it is on the wall to the left of the bed, facing the bed. And…No, I do not have visitors admiring my latest night attire, but use it for piling up the cushions off the bed at night and also, as mentioned, a dressing gown.
    My mother also had a cane chair in her bedroom, but here again, against a wall and not in the middle of the floor. Have absolutely no idea why they do that, but presume it is for visiting, when the lady of the house is served breakfast in bed and family come to converse. So to me, it is a conversation chair!! Oh Susan, you do come up with some interesting things!!! :)

    • :) This has puzzled me for a while so it was time to let y’all puzzle with me. Joyce just left a very detailed explanation about why it’s there, so if you get a chance, stop by and read the comment after yours. Do they have these chair in the Downton Abbey series? I don’t remember seeing them in that show.

      • Susan, have just sent you two of the photos from Downton Abbey and indeed, there are the chairs, one empty and one with husband. Gosh, this is fun!! :) I shall make my hubby sit in the chair tomorrow, so I may tell him the chores he needs to do for that day!! :)

  33. JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    Yes, Theresa is right about the use of the chair. It is always on the woman’s side of the bed, and is used by her personal secretary or assistant while they discuss the events and appointments of the day. The assistant to the Queen, for instance, would talk about her calendar of the day and help her plan timing and appropriate attire for each event. The Lady would sometimes have breakfast served in bed during this daily appointment. All the finer homes of a certain era, particularly in the British commonwealth, continued the tradition of placing a chair at the end of the bed to suggest refinement and knowledge of proper upper class decorating. It was also a way of suggesting that one had a personal assistant and an overwhelmingly busy social schedule. As was mentioned already, the husband also sometimes used the chair to catch up with his wife, since they often led separate and busy lives. That might be the only time they saw each other all day! I vaguely remember old period movies where the husband would sit in the ‘end of the bed’ chair, all dressed in his suit, trying to read the paper while his wife sat in bed, buttering her toast and nattering at him. Now, it all would seem too affected a style, but it is so European and is probably still used there. Like the other lady who commented, I’m also not 90, but have lived in a lot of places in the ‘British Empire’!!

    • Joyce, I’m so glad you and several other folks knew the purpose of the chair. I had never heard of this. Really interesting! I wonder if that’s how Bunny uses her chair or if she just has one there for tradition’s sake.

  34. I think today the bedroom chair has evolved into a place to remove shoes at the end of the day, and to place extra blankets, pillows, robes, etc. for the night. The last photo, that shows the chair right up next to the bed, seems to me to be placed there simply for photographic composition rather than real practicality. No one would really place a chair in that position, it would be dangerous! Love this post- such pretty bedrooms, and good info!

  35. Well, I was going to comment that it seemed most likely to be a visitor’s chair, but I see the comments are already filled with far more knowledgeable discussion, so I’ll divert my comment to the little game I played while looking at the photos, which was “Which boudoir would you choose if you must have one of these?” (oh, the hardship…). First, I eliminated #1 for being too busy, although its elimination might not have been so automatic had it not had the contemporary-looking print of the roses. (This print is very gorgeous and appealing, but too distracting in an otherwise soft, ornate room.) Then I eliminated #5, again for seeming too busy. I like my rooms to soothe, not make my brain work to assimilate them. I just looked at it again, and I’m still not exactly sure why I don’t want it. Maybe it feels cramped, or seems dingy? Anyway, I do love #3, but it seems so bright and cheery, I didn’t get a cozy, restful vibe. I think it would make a lovely “sick room”, like a place to spend one’s maternity leave, trying to regain health and hearty spirits, bonding with baby, nursing, and being more than a little pampered, receiving doting guests, serving dainty teas to ancient aunties bearing impossibly delicate hand-stitched gifts. So that left me #2 and #4. It was a tough call. But I chose #4, despite the distorted bed leg (which I hadn’t noticed). And I still am struggling to understand why. #2 is more spacious, light, and elegant. But #4 has that element that not being a designer, I couldn’t quite put my finger on. In my mind, I think of it as: “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. I’m sure it is one of those laws of design, like the Golden Ratio, or the Fibinacci Sequence, or some such thing. All I know is there is a magic, a certain “je ne sais quoi” about #4. That, and I prefer #4’s bedside chair – more elegant. I also love the thistle as a motif (Scottish heritage), I think the bedskirt/canopy print might be a thistle (although it’s probably a rose, and that is okay too). Thanks for giving me a chance to share my two-cents’ worth.
    WendyBee

  36. Oh My ! Just imagine… waking up to your secretary coming in with tea or coffee and a list of your agenda for the day!
    “No, I don’t think I will be lunching with “famous person A”, today, because I need some ‘me’ time.” “Please, move my 3:00 to next week and schedule us both a manicure for today.”
    Zowie ! I would make sure her chair is comfortable ! :-)

    • Replying to my own comment: I just looked at the pictures, again, and I noticed that in all the pictures, there are other chairs/seating in the room.
      One might think that any visitor or help, would just sit in another chair.
      Also, I noticed that almost all the chairs, seem to be slightly turned away from the bed. A slight angle.
      Is that my imagination or it is a certain placement for a reason? Does anyone know?

  37. Susanne C says:

    I’m Canadian but married 43 yrs. to a Scottish man; his family immigrated in the fifties so I knew them well before we married. The family were upper middle class, educated etc. and his mother would bring the silver tea service and toast to her husband when he first awoke. I stayed at their home when we were engaged and felt like I was being treated like royalty! I too got the tea and toast in the morning and she would even run a warm bath for me. Since then, I’ve known others of British decent who do the same thing…sometimes the husband brings the tea, sometimes the wife. Regardless, it’s a very civilized way to start one’s day and quickly disappearing into the past.

  38. I have never picked up on that chair either. And perhaps there is a real reason for the chair but perhaps it is only to fill in the photograph. Photographing for you blog, you know the camera sees things differently than we do. Perhaps it is a “dead” space and that chair fills the void. I, too, would trip over it in the middle of the night and have more stubbed toes or sore chins than having a chair like that warrants and besides, I don’t think I have enough space on either side of my bed to add a chair. But the rooms are lovely and that chair really adds to them.

  39. elizabeth says:

    A very interesting post! I have noticed chairs positioned like that before and always thought it was for a visitor. Enjoyed reading all the comments! I do have a chair that my Mother always kept beside her bed,I never thought about it. I think I may just place it that way in my guest room!

  40. It is the curve of the chair to help the endless line of the bed…photo staging. Happily, if there is precious room by the bed, a darling chair (by fabric or structure) or a simple chair with a cozy throw or special pillow fills the eye and says, I’ve been waiting all day for you to sit in me, get a cup of tea and let’s read! I love that. None of us recall the upholstery on my Grandma’s bedroom rocker, but oh boy, we all wanted that needlepoint pillow! Could the last designer have been Charles Faudree? No wait, he always has stacks of books on his surfaces. But he does the details like the tiny ruffle on the bed draping. Lovely pictures.

  41. It is the curve of the chair to help the endless line of the bed…photo staging. Happily, if there is precious room by the bed, a darling chair (by fabric or structure) or a simple chair with a cozy throw or special pillow fills the eye and says, I’ve been waiting all day for you to sit in me, get a cup of tea and let’s read! I love that. None of us recall the upholstery on my Grandma’s bedroom rocker, but oh boy, we all wanted that needlepoint pillow! Could the last designer have been Charles Faudree? No wait, he always has stacks of books on his surfaces. But he does the details like the tiny ruffle on the bed draping. Lovely pictures.

  42. I agree it would be an accident waiting to happen, at least at my house, but you brought to mind a very sweet memory. My favorite great-aunt, a true Southern lady, had a very comfy chair in her bedroom, beside her vanity. It was against the wall, facing the bed, and it was used every night by her husband, and when I visited, by me. She would sit at the vanity and do her nightly before-bed routine, and we would have lovely, long conversations, just the two of us. I used to love those times with her. Thanks for a fun post, lovely pictures, and the informative comments.

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