In this guide you’ll learn all about what a chaise longue is, where the style came from, and how you can incorporate it into your home.
What is a chaise longue? A brief history
A chaise longue is a style of sofa or chair that stretches long enough for you to put your feet up.
It feels like a luxurious seating option that has become increasingly popular over the past decade. However, the style actually goes way back.
Pronounced ‘shayz long’, the term originally comes from the French interior design term ‘Chaise’. It is used to refer to long, reclining chairs, and in English, the phrase simply translates to ‘long chair’. In the past, they’ve also been known as fainting chairs for those that love a little more drama.
Previously, chaise longues have been a separate entity. Now, modern day furniture incorporates the chaise style with the addition of an ottoman into family-friendly pieces like modular corner sofas or three seaters - giving everyone plenty of room to kick back and relax.
There are so many classic examples of the chaise throughout history. Some will picture a French woman posing for a painting in a boudoir style room, while others will envisage a Roman banquet where Emperors and their guests lay around being fanned with palm leaves between courses. Even the ancient Greeks were impartial to a rest on these lounging chairs.
In a more recent era, the chaise longue could be found in the offices of wealthy Victoria psychologists, but this is a far less dreamy image…
There is even evidence to suggest this long chair style dates back to Ancient Egypt, with frames being constructed from wood, ivory or ebony.
Throughout history, and further into the French Rococo period, you can see that the classic chaise longue was a symbol of social status for wealthy aristocrats or the upper classes.
Today, this type of seating isn’t associated with riches, but is still a luxurious novelty for the modern home.
Chaise longue vs. Sofa: What’s the difference?
A seat where you can put your feet up sounds awfully similar to a sofa, right? So what’s the difference between the two?
Typically, a chaise is just for one person to longue. On the sofa, if you were to put your feet up, you’d be stopping everyone else sitting down. Chaise longues are a space just for you.
In the simplest terms, a chaise longue is one long seat, while a sofa is designed as multiple seats.
Sofas also usually have a backrest and armrests on either side, too. A chaise will only have one arm and sometimes a back rest. The other end of the chaise is kept open so that you can comfortably lay into it.
Another obvious difference is size. A chaise longue is much smaller than a sofa, or may even be part of a larger sectional piece.
What’s the purpose of a chaise longue?
Unlike daybeds, chaise longues aren’t designed for sleeping on. When sat, your posture would typically be somewhere between lying down and sitting up - which is hardly ideal for a quality snooze.
These single person seats are usually used to compliment other home decor. For example, you may have a vintage chaise longue in the hallway, so that people can sit while putting socks and shoes on. Or, you could create a small reading nook in the corner of a bedroom with a bookcase, side table and a comfy modern chaise longue.
The modern style is also great for just adding additional seating into the living room. At Swyft, there’s even the option to incorporate a chaise into your dream sofa set up.
What types of chaise longues are available?
There are three classic chaise longue styles found throughout history.
The first is the duchesse brisee. This style features a single chair and a long footstool. Occasionally, the duchesse brisee may also be made up of two chairs with a stool in between them to allow for the sitter to sprawl out.
This style was named after Madame Recamier, a French society hostess. It looks more like an upholstered bench with raised arms at either end but nothing on either side of the sitting space.
The Meridienne is a little different, as it is more of a sloped sitting position. The seat has a high head rest and a low foot rest that is joined in the middle by the sloping seat.
These classic French style chaise longues are still available today, but are much more rare. You might see them featured in the drawing room of stately homes, or stashed away in an antique furniture store.
As mentioned above, modular sofas can incorporate a chaise longue into the design to create the ultimate comfort corner for you and your family. Read our 3 Seater Sofa Guide to see what options we have available.
Chaise longue styling tips
Whether you’re interested in investing in an antique chaise, or want to see how a modern piece would work in your home, here are a few styling tips to consider.
Balance out other furniture with a chaise longue
If you’ve got your eyes on a smaller sofa or loveseat, a chaise longue could be a great addition to the room. It’ll give you somewhere to put your feet up if you’re in the mood for lounging, and won’t take up as much room as a traditional armchair and footstool combo. It can also act as something to balance out the room if your sofa is tucked away to one side.
A chaise longue is a good idea for smaller living rooms, too, as you won’t want a full sized sofa to take up all the space. Adding a chaise may make the room feel more snug while also providing additional seating for guests.
Use as an alternative to a sofa
For those spaces that are even too small for a small sofa, a chaise could be an ideal alternative.
They’re much less bulky, but offer plenty of room for one or two people to sit comfortably. This may be something to consider if you’re in a small apartment, or wanting to add a seat to the guest room or home office. (Disclaimer: We cannot take responsibility if productivity levels decline after the introduction of a cosy chaise in the office!)
Position alongside a sofa
If the room allows for it, you could use a chaise longue to compliment other furniture like a straight sofa.
Guests may appreciate having somewhere separate from the sofa to sit - as not everyone wants to be up close and personal! It also makes it easier to entertain a group of guests, as everyone can sit and see other people in the group - rather than all sitting on the same sofa and having to look to either side to speak to friends.
Create a partition
A high backed chair could easily be used to segment an open plan living space, too. This is ideal for breaking up a large area without blocking out light with tall furniture items like bookcases or display cabinets.
Combine your chaise in a modular sofa
For those that already have a modular sofa, one of the easiest ways to incorporate a chaise longue into your home is to upgrade one module for a longer chaise style. You could have a 2 seater with one seat having a chaise style, or increase the number of seats and have a chaise at the end to create a corner sofa effect.
If you’re not sure what options are available for your sofa, check out our complete guide to sofa parts.So, you should now have a good idea as to what a chaise longue actually is. These comfy seats make a great addition in any room of the house, or can be incorporated into your sofa design. If you’re interested, you can shop chaise sofas on our site and see which styles might suit your home.