The History of the Parsons Chair

Beth Rice 16/07/2020

The Parsons chair has got it all. It’s comfy and cool, sleek and versatile, classic and modern all at the same time. Armless without apology, upholstery that allows colors and patterns to enhance the room, and high backed with long clean lines, Parsons chairs have staying power.

So where did the Parsons chair originate and why? How does it keep moving forward from its original debut in the 1930s? Let’s take a look at the path of the beloved Parsons chair.

History of the Parsons Chair

It’s not called a Parsons chair because it’s named after a clergyman or church. Religious affiliation has nothing to do with the name of this popular dining chair. The Parsons chair was designed and built by students at the Parsons School of Design in Paris, France back in the 1930s. The style was received well and furniture makers began to copy it.

The Parsons chair was built to be comfortable instead of making a furniture fashion statement, so to speak. It was one of the first dining chairs to feature a cushioned seat. Dining chairs at the time were full of excessive carvings and ornamentation, and part of the Parsons chair’s purpose was to unveil a more simplistic and versatile dining chair design. It is considered a transitional style chair that combines modern and classic. The design was light and airy, in contrast to the heavy and embellished furniture styles at the time.

Amish Carson Parsons Dining Table
Parsons chairs were used with simple designs like our Jasper Leg Dining Table.

Parsons Chair Features

  • Simple elegance
  • Clean lines
  • Slightly curved or tapered legs
  • Tall, straight, padded back
  • Upholstered and padded seat
  • Lightweight
  • Fits both formal and casual look
  • Most often armless
Amish Olson Parsons Dining Chair
Parsons chair legs often have just a slight taper, but some have added turned detail as seen on this Amish Lansdowne Dining Chair.
Amish Bradbury Upholstered Parsons Dining Chair
Upholstery options open up lots of possibilities for matching Parsons chairs to a variety of dining tables.
Pictured: The Amish Bradbury Upholstered Parsons dining chair in brown maple wood with rich tobacco stain and Cornelia gray fabric.

Reasons to Pick Parsons Chairs

  • Versatile nature lets them blend with various décor in different rooms
  • Cushioned for comfort
  • Provide additional seating for company
  • Lots of fabric colors and patterns to pick from
  • Lightweight and easy to move
Ruff Sawn Sunrise Parsons Chair
The Ruff Sawn Sunrise Parsons Chair offers elegant comfort with padded back and seat.

Today’s Parsons Chair

Today’s Parsons chair has kept the same elegant simplicity as its original design. It’s ready for dining rooms or any room where extra seating is needed. There are a variety of Parsons chair styles available today, utilizing different wood finishes, button tufted backs, some smooth seats and some are skirted. It’s a chair that fits both modern and classic settings.

Amish Alana Parsons Dining Chair
The Amish Alana Parsons Dining Chair wears elegant button tufting.
Nora Side Chair
The Precedent Nora Side Chair puts a new spin on Parsons chair legs.

A famous fabric chair, the simple elegance of the Parsons chair never loses its appeal as a favorite upholstered dining chair.  

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