Chaise lounge chairs have an interesting history. The Greeks had furniture that was similar in shape and used as a place to sit during the day, and as beds by night. The Romans reclined on couches with one raised end while they dined and conversed at parties.
The chaise lounge became popular in the 16th century. The French name for them was chaise longue, literally “long chair.”
The long chair was followed up by the “duchesse en bateau” or duchess in a boat, which featured a sort of armchair at one end of a long seat, then the “duchesse brisée” or broken duchess, which was an odd sort of seating arrangement where a footstool was positioned between two chairs to create a daybed.
The “broken” part probably came from the ability to take the three pieces apart and have two chairs and a footstool.
The French furnishings were popular and soon evolved into the “Recamier”, an elegant furnishing with a raised back at one end of the lounge, and elegantly scrolled head and foot.
It often featured a rolled neck pillow at one end. The Recamier was followed up by a similar item, called the Meridienne, which retained the graceful back at one end, but did not have the fanciful shape at the foot.
Moving Toward Modern
The Recamier and the Meridienne were followed up by the fainting couch, a furnishing much loved by the severely corseted women of the mid- to late 1900s. The fainting couch was designed so that one could easily lie back upon it, even without “loosening the stays” of one’s corset.
The fainting couch then gave way to the more modern chaise lounge and to the day bed.
Today’s Chaise Lounge
With their usual insouciance, Americans changed the original name from chaise longue to chaise lounge or lounge chair. The modern chaise lounge can range in style from elegant furnishings often associate with a doctor or psychiatrist’s office, to gravity chairs or poolside plastic loungers.
While you might not want to recline while you share a meal or require a place to sit to recover your breath because your corset is too tightly laced, the chaise lounge is still a comfortable place to relax with a book. In a pinch, the modern chaise lounge can even stand in as a spare bed.
Frequently Asked Styling Questions
My Living Room is Furnished in Victorian Style. Is There a Chaise Lounge Style That Will Go With It?
There certainly is! Any of the classic, upholstered modern chaise lounge styles could be adapted, especially if they are upholstered in a quiet fabric such as linen.
Leather upholstery also goes well with Victorian styles. A classic Victorian chaise lounge might be upholstered with velvet and have gold braid added as trim.
Is There a Chaise Lounge Style to Go with a Seashore Retreat Living Room?
A wicker/rattan chaise lounge is amazingly comfortable. Usually made with a bamboo framework, then finished with classic rattan using a wicker weave, a wicker chaise lounge will probably include a thick upholstery pad over the rolled arm and across the seat and lounging area.
Light-weight and charming, wicker furniture tends to be more comfortable for lounging in warm climates than heavy, overstuffed furnishings that are upholstered with heavy fabric or leather.
I Like Sitting or Lounging on the Floor. Is There a Suitable Chaise Lounge for Me?
Futon-style chaise lounges are available. They feature a thick, cushiony pad for sitting, and stretching out, but also have a well-supported back to facilitate watching television, reading or even using a laptop computer. They go very well with low, Japanese style tables or with lap desks.
What's the Most Comfortable Chaise Lounge for the Deck Beside My Swimming Pool?
There are plastic chaise lounges made specifically for use as lawn chairs or poolside seating. With minimal metal or wooden parts, they are waterproof, easy to wipe clean, and resistant to damage from chlorine, salt or sun.
They don’t last as well as chaise lounges made for indoor use, and you will probably want to place a beach towel or throw over the plastic before sitting on it, but they are designed to provide comfort in an outdoor setting that includes water.
Is There a Chaise Lounge For Small Spaces?
Gravity chair loungers, which are usually a plastic mesh or canvas over a tubular steel frame, are ideal for the occasional lounger. They fold up flat, similar to any folding chair, so they don’t take a lot of room to store.
They can even be taken camping and, in a pinch, can act as a spare bed. They are shaped to the curve of the human body, and can be positioned as an ordinary chair, a recliner, or tipped all the way back to become a lounger.
Is There a Difference Between a Classic Chaise Lounge and the Other Seats Described Here?
To some degree, yes. The classic chaise lounge is a chair with an elongated seat suitable to allow the legs to be stretched out on it. The Recamier, Meridienne and fainting couch all have a back that is positioned toward the sitting end of the lounge, and more of a rolled arm at the end rather than a back.
Regardless of the style of the lounger you select, it can be a welcoming place where you can relax and enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage while you put your feet up. Ranging in style from the truly elegant to simple and basic, you are sure to be able to find a chaise lounge that goes not only with your household style but with your personal lifestyle.