I can’t truly say that my husband is a romantic man, but he is occasionally afflicted by romantic impulses. One of those took place on a cold, dark January day when he told me he fancied the idea of making me a heart-shaped chair for Valentine’s Day. I’m not the greatest romantic myself, but nor am I a fool who misses out on an opportunity when it’s presented to her. I was delighted to agree to the plan.
The first thing we did was turn to the internet and search for heart-shaped chairs that might offer some design inspiration. As usual, it was astonishing how many already existed, but how few really spoke to us. There were a lot of undeniably pretty chairs in the shield-backed style that felt just too ornate and old-fashioned for a modern setting. And then there were a handful of contemporary remakes that were daring and bold, but just too big a statement for what we wanted.
Andrew likes to make contemporary furniture that’s strong on teamwork, fitting in sweetly with pieces already existing in a room. We needed a chair that was easy, graceful, comfortable and accessible in design. Andrew’s mother had a chair we’d long admired, an old-fashioned nursing chair with a low, generous seat and an elegant back. Andrew decided to allow his design to develop organically, taking these basic principles and sculpting a clean, modern form from them. He began with the base, creating a broad hoop base that sat low on simple cabriolet legs.
Then he allowed the heart-shaped back to grow out of the tight waist of the chair, following contours that felt natural.
Having got the basic form, we now needed to decide how it should be upholstered. Andrew wanted this chair to be as much about the upholstery as it was the shape. He was drawn to the idea of a plump, lushly cushioned chair, one that would echo the heart theme in spirit as well as in form. So it was back to the internet to search for possible fabrics.
Choosing a fabric is not an easy thing to do. Colours can vary so much between the internet image and the real material, so samples are a must. But even then, you have to bear in mind that a small square of fabric is going to look different when covering a large area. Patterns tend to calm down when spread over the whole expanse of a chair, but a plain fabric can look uncompromising and vast. I’d initially favoured a rose pink velvet for the chair, but when the samples arrived, I could see that I might end up with a great big marshmallow rather than the fun but sophisticated look we were after. But at the same time, Andrew wanted to risk a bit of bling and experiment with creating more striking effects. In the end we decided to try the invitingly-titled ‘ritz flame’ velour.
The finished chair makes me think of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. It has a little bit of fairy tale about it, but at the same time, the curved and angled back is extremely comfortable and the simple design won’t overwhelm a room. It’s perfect as a bedroom chair and could be an ideal chair for a young girl. It certainly appeals to my inner-twelve-year-old self! With a different fabric, you could create a very different effect: a pale blue or gold, or a dark burgundy, would make it a lovely addition to an elegant sitting room. All in all, it was a wonderful Valentine’s Day present – though I’m warning Andrew that he’s set the bar high now, and I’m not going to be satisfied with just a card after this….