The quest for the perfect armchair

Simple seating furniture, like these from arflex, is currently in fashion. Photos: dpa

Living rooms used to be all about the central seating arrangement, but a new trend is nudging giant sofas out of the way in favour of smaller couches that can be combined with one or more armchairs.

No longer playing a mere supporting role, the one-seater has become the big statement of the sitting room, while the couch blends into the background.

When it comes to picking one, there are more candidates out there than can be imagined, which makes choosing difficult.

"The most important question to work out is what the chair is for, and whether it is meant to be placed together with the sofa or whether it is an armchair for reading and relaxing in, to be placed somewhere else," says Gabriele Kaiser, a trend analyst from Landsberg am Lech.

Answering this will help you pick the right shape of armchair. "If you want a cosy spot to read in, a winged chair is a good choice," says Kaiser. "The shape creates a sort of cocoon where you can read your book in peace."

Sofas are slimming down: Instead of large lounging areas, a combination of small sofa and armchair is popular, as seen in these designs by WON.

Anyone buying an armchair to combine with a sofa should check the chair is open on all sides, to avoid making conversations more difficult.

It can be hard to work out the size of a chair when you're in a furniture shop or buying online, so Jan Kurth, of the German furniture industry association, suggests laying out the size of the chair with pieces of newspaper or cardboard on the floor.

"That will give you a good idea of how much space the chair takes up and if that fits with the rest of the furniture in the room."

It is not only about creating harmony so everything in the room fits well together – the seat itself has to work for you too.

This relaxing armchair by Cassina will need quite a bit of space in the living room.

"The width of the seat is crucial," says Kaiser. "It should be large enough so that you don't feel cramped in the armchair. For those who are more stately, a seat should be 60cm wide or more."

The seat should also match the length of people's legs.

"This is especially important with a lounge chair, for example, which tends to lean backwards," says Kaiser. "The rule of thumb is if you sit right up against the backrest, there should be about 5cm of space from the edge of the chair to the bend of the knee."

Armchairs, like this Flexform model, are becoming increasingly slimmer and more delicate in design.

The trend for combining one or several armchairs to form a seating area offers many more design possibilities than a single seating landscape.

One possible combination, for example, is to have your armchair and sofa in different fabrics. You could have a leather sofa and an armchair covered in a coarser wool fabric, suggests Kurth.

Different materials can be fashionably combined, and you don't need to scour the web looking for an armchair with the same look as your couch.

This Vitra armchair in a striking colour is a beautiful eye-catcher.

You can also mix and match different colours. "You can work with contrasts or differing tones," says Kaiser. "Light tones such as cream for a sofa look great with an armchair in a bold red or blue."

Warm honey or terracotta nuances are also in vogue right now.

"These can be beautifully combined with a clear blue or green. Or if you prefer a more subtle combination, match a beige sofa with an armchair in a warm chocolate brown, or a grey sofa with an armchair in anthracite."

It boils down to a single formula, in Kaiser's view: The smaller the piece of furniture, the stronger the colour - and the other way around.

"Larger pieces of furniture such as a sofa should be neutral, while an armchair can make a statement." – dpa

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