What is a Gainsborough Chair?

A large and comfortable armchair of British origin, known for its open sides and upholstered seat and back.


The Gainsborough chair is a distinguished piece of furniture that has played a significant role in the evolution of seating design. Named after the famous British painter Thomas Gainsborough, who was fond of depicting this type of chair in his portraits, it emerged in the mid-18th century and quickly became a symbol of comfort and elegance in interior design. The Gainsborough chair is characterized by its sizable proportions, making it particularly inviting for sitting. It usually features distinct, open sides that are either partially or fully upholstered, along with padded armrests that enhance comfort. The backrest and seat are deeply cushioned, promoting a luxurious seating experience. Furthermore, the legs of a Gainsborough chair are often crafted in fine wood and can exhibit intricate carvings, reflecting the craftsmanship skills of the era. This chair not only served a functional purpose but also demonstrated the social status and taste of its owner, making it a coveted item among the elite.

In terms of style, the Gainsborough chair often incorporates elements of Baroque and Rococo design, making it blend well in historical periods and movements as well as traditional design styles. However, modern reinterpretations of this classic piece have allowed it to adapt to contemporary settings, showcasing its timeless appeal. Its design encourages relaxation and conversation, making it an ideal choice for living rooms, libraries, and study rooms.


The Gainsborough chair can be found in a variety of settings, from period homes that aim to reflect an authentic 18th-century aesthetic to modern homes seeking to add a touch of classic elegance. It's particularly popular in living rooms, home libraries, and studies, where comfort and style are paramount. In professional settings like law firms or executive offices, the Gainsborough chair adds a sense of gravitas and luxurious comfort. Moreover, in contemporary interior design, these chairs are often used as statement pieces that tie the room's decor together, blending seamlessly with both traditional and modern elements.


  • What makes a Gainsborough chair unique?

    A Gainsborough chair is unique because of its open sides, large dimensions, and the high level of comfort it provides through its padded armrests, and deeply cushioned seat and back. It combines elegance with functionality, making it a timeless piece of furniture.

  • Can a Gainsborough chair fit in a modern interior design?

    Yes, while the Gainsborough chair has roots in 18th-century design, its timeless elegance allows it to seamlessly fit into modern interior designs. Contemporary versions might incorporate modern fabrics and materials, making them suitable for a wide range of decor styles.

  • How can I identify an authentic Gainsborough chair?

    An authentic Gainsborough chair is identified by its sizeable proportions, open sides, upholstered seat and back, and padded armrests. Authentic chairs may also feature intricate woodwork on their legs and frame, typical of 18th-century craftsmanship.

Practical Application

To incorporate a Gainsborough chair into your interior design, consider placing it in a space where comfort and elegance are desired, such as a living room or study. Its substantial size and distinct style make it an ideal focal point or complementary piece to other ornate furniture. For a more modern twist, opt for a chair upholstered in contemporary fabrics, but maintain the classic structure to preserve its unique charm.