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Interior Design

How Dallas’ Best Designers Choose Their Chairs

You spend a lot of time sitting down, and you want to be comfortable. Or do you? We asked Dallas designers to debate form vs. function.
By D Home | |Photography by Elizabeth Lavin
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Elizabeth Lavin

How Dallas’ Best Designers Choose Their Chairs

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Choosing a seat is like choosing a partner. Some prioritize looks, some comfort level, and others refuse to settle for anything less than the total package. Our Best Designers cast their votes in this debate for the ages.

Point: Looks Matter

“Some pieces just look so stunning in the space that it overpowers the functional aspect.” —Liz Dauwe, Studio White Interiors 

“Not every piece should be maximally useful. Pure aesthetics in a statement piece (or three!) carry a room, and ultimately the conversation.” —John Bobbitt, Bobbitt & Company

“I do think most pieces should have a function, but I also just like something sometimes because it’s cool or pretty. Then it becomes more like art—and art is important in life!” —Amy Williams, Amy Gibbs Interiors 

“We love using a sculptural chair to make a statement in our rooms.” Jean Liu, Jean Liu Design, LLC

“A unique chair or light fixture I find to be very good conversation starter.” Mary Beth Wagner, Mary Beth Wagner Interiors

“I still love a formal living room because you can include some beautiful pieces where the long-term comfort is not as important. These pieces can really reflect the client’s personality, and including more bespoke and unique pieces can create a more curated look that sets the tone for the home.” Roz Murphy, Roz Murphy Design

“Not everything has a function; some things are just pretty or fun. But form and good scale/proportion is important for all.” —Kathy Adcock Smith, Adcock-Smith Design

Counterpoint: Comfort is King

“Function is not negotiable. Form and function go together, but I will sometimes use a less favorite form if the function is the same.” —Cheryl Van Duyne, Cheryl Van Duyne Interior Design

“Function always has to come first. After all, you’re designing a space for people to live in, not just look at—one that is striking yet practical and comfortable. Ultimately, when a piece is designed with purpose and skill, it should have both.” —Margaret Chambers, Chambers Interiors & Associates

“I believe that seating should always start with function and form should follow. Whether it is a dining chair or a sofa, if it isn’t comfortable or doesn’t serve the purpose or scale needed, it is a fail. Form is much better for lighting, tables, and carpets. This is where you can add drama and fashion without sacrificing as much.” —Denise McGaha, Denise McGaha Interiors

“During the last two-plus very unusual years, we’ve seen a real increase in clients insisting on performance fabrics, rugs, wall-coverings, etc. Style and comfort are still at the forefront of clients’ minds, but at least for now-ish, function is winning by a nose.” —Bill Cates and Russ Peters, Peters Cates Design, Inc.

Some Say: We Want  It All!

“Even if a piece is simplistic in style, I think it should check both boxes—form and function. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you buy an ugly sofa only because it’s comfortable. You really can have both!” —Shay Geyer, IBB Design Fine Furnishings

“Every piece has to accomplish both form and function. If we can’t make that happen, then we look to sell or donate the piece to some who can appreciate it.” —Mary Elizabeth Canon and Hannah Dean, Canon & Dean Design

“Not every piece has to follow both, but there are some pieces I would absolutely say should! These are going to be the big-ticket items that will last for years, like sofas and dining tables and chairs.” —Mary Anne Smiley, Mary Anne Smiley Interiors LLC

“Every room must have seating that is comfortable and attractive. No one likes to spend time in a room with stiff chairs and nowhere to rest your feet. Men particularly don’t like to ‘perch.’ This doesn’t mean rooms should have recliners—those are strictly for media rooms! All upholstery can be made with a comfortable fill, interesting design details, and scale that is inviting.” Mia Brous and Kerri Goldfarb, MADRE Design

Others Say: It Just Depends

“Form/function look different in every space. Not every piece in a formal living room has to have a specific function; an accent chair can just look pretty! Whereas in a playroom, every piece should have a purpose.” —Javier Burkle, Burkle Creative

“That depends on how clients use their home. Designing a kitchen for a client who never cooks allows me weight ‘form.’ Clients with pets that are invited on the furniture have furnishings that are forgiving.” —David Salem, Salem & Associates

“For primary rooms that are heavily used, form and function are important. But if you want to create a beautiful vignette in an entry or hallway, you can absolutely do a unique, less functional piece for impact.” —Ginger Curtis, Urbanology Designs

“Some are stars and some are supporting players.” John Marrs, John Phifer Marrs Interiors

“I’m crazy about chairs. They really set the mood of a room.” Jan Showers, Jan Showers & Associates

“Small chairs should have lots of personality—they relate closest to the human scale, so I like to think of them as ‘characters’ in a room.” Josh Pickering, Pickering House Interiors

“I like for most pieces to accomplish both, but then there are definitely times when function wins, and times when style wins. It is all about knowing when and where while listening to clients’ needs.” —Philip Vanderford, Studio Thomas James


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