Enduring Design Of Classical Antiquity: The Klismos Chair

The Klismos chair. Enduring design. Proportion and stylistic comfort of classical antiquity, for certain. An ancient style that has a timeless nature in its appeal…

The word of Greek orign, pronounced kliz-mos, was taken from the word “Klino”, “a cause to lean”. The Klismos chair is a distinctive chair with an easily recognizable design that dates back to ancient Greece. (Classical Antiquity/ 8th century BCE to 6th century AD). Extensively used by the Greeks, the classical shape has reappeared in French Directoire, Empire style, English Regency and Duncan Phyfe styles as well as classic modern takes today. The reinterpretations that have evolved over the centuries continue to hold true to the elegance and sophistication of the shape and design of this iconic chair. Used in a variety of interior settings, from traditional to contemporary, its versatility is timeless. The Klismos has certainly stood the test of time with its regal and formal appeal. Function and lightweight practicality with great design.

Characterized by a broad top rail and curved back (Stiles and legs), the 4 saber legs are extended or ‘splayed’ (curved) outward in the front and in the back. However, it is the curved back of this chair that defines its classic shape. The curved back cradles the sitter who is then supported by the stylish legs. These soft, sweeping or flaring legs, placed in opposition to one another, are another common distinction of this glorious chair. The Klismos chair is said to have achieved its greatest popularity around 500 BC. Ancient artifacts showcase its glory with seated figures gracing its elegant shape. Unfortunately, no original Klismos chairs survived to Modern times, but the rich history remains on these pottery sculptures, bas reliefs and paintings. The shape of the chair is also said to have changed slightly in the Hellenistic period after 323 BC when the back became thicker and heavier. Everything changes in time, indeed. Of interest, the Klismos chair created a frenzy of design when its depiction was excavated at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-Eighteenth century. The surge of adoration for all things Grecian (and Roman) were met with the clean lines of this chair. A Greek revival, indeed. Thus, the Klismos design was revived in the 18th century Western Neoclassical movement throughout Europe and again in the early 19th century. Of interest, in France, it is said to have appealed to those that reacted against the excessive Rococo style. Although the shape of the Klismos chair would again undergo changes with variations of its style and proportions, the enduring design of this light and elegant chair of antiquity has remained a classic.

The Klismos Chair In Antiquity

Of importance to the history of this iconic chair, it was during the 20th century that the Klismos chair saw another revival and interpretation. T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings produced a Klismos chair that represented the fine lines yet with a stark, modern appeal. Again, design changes, but the appeal of enduring design remains. Beyond Robsjohn-Gibbings interpretation, modern design has added many versions with the distinctive design elements of the Klismos. Whether a traditional and classic appeal of wooden splayed legs or an upholstered version of style there is surely an interpretation of this iconic design that can suit any interior.

20th Century Designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings & His "Klismos" Chair
20th Century Designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings & His Modern Interpretation Of The “Klismos” Chair

The Timeless & Regal Klismos Chair
The Timeless & Regal Klismos Chair
Distinctive Design Of Pure Style:  The Klismos Chair
Distinctive Design Of Pure Style: The Klismos Chair
Sophistication And Classic Design Paired With Comfort:  The Klismos Chair
Sophistication And Classic Design Paired With Comfort: The Klismos Chair
The Klismos Chair:  Classic Design With A Rich History
The Klismos Chair: Classic Design With A Rich History

Consider the elegance and grace of the Klismos chair. A balance of symmetry and proportion, its regal stature is timeless. “Aesthetic sophistication and craftsmanship of the Ancient Greeks”, for certain. The Klismos chair is a design classic that has survived adaptions and revisions yet has remained faithful to its stylistic design. New interpretations of this iconic chair are certain for its future. Enduring design, indeed.


“Goddesses liked the Klismos”- Homer


10 thoughts on “Enduring Design Of Classical Antiquity: The Klismos Chair

  1. Like Linda, I had no idea what this type of chair was called. Now I know, and can impress my parents when they sit down on the Klismos chairs in our dining room tonight (; Thanks for sharing this great post!

    – Jonathan

  2. I’ve been searching for information on the style of chairs I just purchased – this is such an informative and pleasing article to read. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you for sharing, Sara! I am thrilled that you found this post informative and enjoyable! How fantastic that you have acquired Klismos chairs! It certainly makes it that much more exciting when you know the name of a style (and, of course, the history) which adds so much to the enjoyment and appreciation of a distinctive icon of design!
      I hope you visit again…

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