Great chairs strike balance between style, comfort

Because its functional requirements are so demanding, I’d say the chair is the single most difficult piece of furniture to design.

That hasn’t stopped designers down through the decades from striving to create a style of chair so striking in appearance that their name will be attached to it. And a few have succeeded — there’s the Eames Lounge Chair, for example. Such identification with a designer will endure only if a chair manages to combine agreeable function with appealing form.

It’s always a mistake to buy a chair solely on the basis of its design, though I know how strong that temptation can be. Make sure you sit in a chair for at least a couple of minutes before making it part of your home. Most of us don’t want to live in design museums; we want our furniture to make us feel good physically as well as aesthetically.

Q: I’m shopping for a comfortable chair to put on a terrace that has a roof but is otherwise open to the elements. Its style has to be compatible with the rustic look of the house, but I’m not a fan of wicker. And metal furniture doesn’t move me at all.

Any suggestions?

A: Check out the designs available from Reed Bros. of Sebastopol, Calif. (www.reed Much of this small firm’s furniture appeals to those who like rustic design.

Reed Bros.’ new Washoe Collection of wooden outdoor furniture, made up of hand-hewn pieces, incorporates many characteristics of the American Arts and Crafts style. This design movement flourished during the first decades of the 20th century and is still widely admired.

The large-scale Washoe rocking chair shown in the accompanying photo is made of Sonoma cypress. Such a handsome piece would be a welcome addition to most rustic settings. And, yes, it’s quite comfortable — as well as durable.

Reed Bros. also offers chairs with a lighter finish that would work well in Cape Cod style homes. Residents of either the East or West Coast can thus find designs in sync with their region’s sense of style.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at

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