The revival of relaxation; Sinking into a chaise longue is easier than pronouncing it
New York — Let's face it. We love to plop and flop when we relax around the house. We often appreciate feet-up support when we read and write during leisure moments. We like, as often as possible, to pamper ourselves with soft looks and cushy comfort.
The current vogue for "the chaise," in all its modern interpretations, does indeed encourage this comfort. The chaise is up front and everywhere these days , and its revival is one of the most insistent new trends seen at recent furniture markets.
It has emerged from the boudoir and now claims important space in living rooms, family rooms, and studies. So many companies are producing so many versions that you can take your choice of style, shape, and size. Relaxation is their common message and purpose.
"If you are going to discuss the piece, at least spell and pronounce it correctly," urges one New York decorator. The name "chaise longue" (pronounced "shaizelon'") comes from the French and means, literally, a long chair, although the Webster dictionary refers to it as "an elongated couchlike seat with a raised back support at one end."
Since many Americans dislike tangling with French terms, the chaise longue soon became the "chaise lounge." The two descriptions now coexist in usage and in the dictionary. Many devotees, however, are satisfied to dub the piece, simply, a chaise.
Mme. Juliette Recamier, a famous French beauty who lived in Paris from 1777 to 1849, had a portrait painted as she sat upon a curvaceous chaise, whose style still bears her name. Today's chaise connoisseurs say that her model was probably wretchedly uncomfortable. Yet she arranged herself prettily upon it as she entertained the leading political and literary figures of the day at her fashionable salon.
Alex Mitchell, the Baker Company's director of interior design, says the modern chaise answers the demand of many today for a "relaxed, elegant look."
"Young couples often don't want the old tried-and-true combinations of a sofa , love seat, and chair, or a sofa flanked by two armchairs. Those arrangements seem stiff and conventional to them. They want something new, like a right-arm and a left- arm chaise facing each other in front of a fireplace. They like the invitation to lounge, and they also like the fact that, when they entertain, far more guests can perch on all sides of a chaise."
David Briggs, a New York interior designer with Everett Brown Associates, agrees that the new chaises are appealing to many of his clients. He calls them the perfect soothing answer to the familiar old phrase, "Oh, what a day I've had!" Working people love them, he says, for that half hour or so of put-your-feet-up relaxation before they head out again to evening meetings or social affairs.
Mr. Briggs, along with several other designers, cites changing life styles and increased leisure time as the dominant reasons behind the new flexible role of the chaise.
The chaise, in combination with ottomans and armless seating units, is also the keystone to numerous modular seating groups today, including those made by Selig, Bernhardt, and Century.
The Stratford Company claims its collection of chaise seating pieces is "a new generation of furniture to fill the changing needs of a new generation of furniture buyers," This company's right-arm and left- arm facing chaises, with camelbacks and plump roll arms, even include convertible beds for sleeping overnight guests.
While Stratford terms its bedroom chaises "utterly feminine," David Barrett could call his Circa chaises "utterly masculine" in their husky proportions and more rugged colors and covers. They can be custom-ordered to any length, including full sleeping length.
Keller Williams makes a corner chaise the size of a queen-size bed. Flair gives its new corner chaise an Oriental flavor and piles it with big pillows, while Charlton's latest combination seating idea is to offer a sumptuous sofa with a matching deep, soft chaise.
Leonard Alpert is even offering a rather regal peacock-chair chaise, with typical high fan-shaped back, in wicker, illustrating again that the chaise in 1981 can come in many moods and materials.
Let it be known, however, that not everyone is a chaise fancier, or a flopper or a lounge lizard. One male designer said gloomily of the chaise longue, "They are hard to get into and out of. And they are expensive to boot. I wouldn't give one house room."