February 14, 2023

Saloon Chair: The Revival of an Old Favorite

At first glance, the saloon chair may seem like a seat­ing option best suit­ed to inte­ri­ors inspired by an Old West aes­thet­ic. With its wrap-around back and curved arms, this apt­ly named style cer­tain­ly harkens back to the leg­endary water­ing holes of the Amer­i­can fron­tier. How­ev­er, many of today’s cre­ative restau­rant inte­ri­or design­ers are using saloon-style chairs in new and inno­v­a­tive ways, putting a mod­ern spin on an old clas­sic.

Saloon Chairs in Modern Design

Rather than being reserved for tra­di­tion­al West­ern appli­ca­tions, saloon chairs are show­ing up in an impres­sive­ly diverse range of inte­ri­ors. Far from the dusty, run-down saloons of the 1800s, these spaces are often fresh and bright, with a decid­ed­ly laid back vibe. 

So, how do you trans­form a Wild West sta­ple into an unex­pect­ed­ly fun addi­tion to a mod­ern inte­ri­or? With paint, uphol­stery, and some cre­ativ­i­ty, you can make the saloon chair one of the style stars of your next design project.

Saloon chairs in various finishes

Finish and Paint: Go Beyond Basic

Ear­ly Amer­i­can fur­ni­ture was often con­struct­ed from wal­nut or oak, with rose­wood and mahogany some­times mak­ing an appear­ance. But regard­less of the type of wood used, fin­ish­es were typ­i­cal­ly kept extreme­ly sim­ple. The chairs in an Old West saloon would have been a sin­gle col­or, often with a medi­um fin­ish that matched the tables, bar, and even the floors and walls. 

So, a sure­fire way to give the saloon-style chair a twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry refresh­er is with paint and fin­ish col­ors. Light­en up the look with a white­wash fin­ish, or go for some­thing a bit more bold with a deep espres­so or black. Anoth­er option is to use the saloon chair as a pop of col­or in your design, choos­ing a cus­tom paint shade that com­ple­ments — or pleas­ant­ly con­trasts with — oth­er col­ors in the space. We’ve seen design­ers select sur­pris­ing shades such as robin’s egg blue or mint green, com­plete­ly reimag­in­ing the saloon chair and turn­ing it into an eclec­tic style state­ment. 

Upholstery: Elevate Comfort and Style

Even a cou­ple hun­dred years ago, fur­ni­ture design­ers were craft­ing with com­fort in mind. So, it makes sense that the curved back and arms of the saloon chair are specif­i­cal­ly shaped to pro­vide plen­ty of sup­port. Back when its home was a rau­cous bar in an old fron­tier town, the saloon chair was intend­ed to be a com­fort­able spot for guests to enjoy a long, relax­ing vis­it (and most like­ly, their fair share of bour­bon). Today, restau­rant guests can still eas­i­ly set­tle into a saloon chair — and you can boost com­fort and style with some well-designed uphol­stery.

Leather is always a time­less go-to, but the ver­sa­til­i­ty of the saloon chair design helps it pair well with a num­ber of oth­er uphol­stery options as well, includ­ing fab­rics and vinyl alike. You might con­sid­er choos­ing uphol­stery that con­trasts with the fin­ish or col­or of the chair itself, which can fur­ther mod­ern­ize the final effect. Uphol­stery can be added to both the seat and the top of the chair’s back, cre­at­ing a sense of con­sis­ten­cy through­out the design.

Style Snapshot: The Saloon Chair in a Real Restaurant Design

Customized saloon chairs in an interior shot at Plank Seafood and Provisions

In Plank Seafood and Pro­vi­sions, a seafood grill and oys­ter bar in Austin, TX, the old stan­dard of the saloon chair received a major update. The chair’s dark fin­ish is paired with bright orange uphol­stery, a col­or that is car­ried through in wall-length bench-style booth seat­ing. 

Worth not­ing are the oth­er ele­ments in the inte­ri­or: under­stat­ed, nat­ur­al-fin­ish table tops with a mod­ern, squared-off edge and min­i­mal­is­tic base, as well as cus­tom booth seat­ing with white, wood-pan­eled sides and ver­ti­cal-chan­nel uphol­stered backs. All of these thought­ful­ly-select­ed com­po­nents, includ­ing the saloon chairs, come togeth­er to cre­ate a delight­ful bal­ance of eclec­ti­cism, fun, and style.

Interested in seeing more ideas for ways to use saloon-style chairs in your next design project?

Con­nect with our team to start chat­ting now!