Chiavari chair

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Chiavari chairs at a meeting in the White House State Dining Room in 2009
Chiavari chairs in the Family Dining Room at the White House in 2009

The Chiavari chair, also known as the Chiavarina, or Tiffany chair, is a wooden chair of Ligurian design.


The Chiavarina was created in 1807 by a cabinetmaker from Chiavari on the northwestern Italian coast, Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi[1] (known as "Campanino" because he came from a family of bell ringers), who at the invitation of the president of the Economic Society of Chiavari, the Marquis Stefano Rivarola, reworked some chairs in the French Empire style, simplifying the decorative elements and lightening the structural elements.[2]

The chair was a success and soon many factories opened in Chiavari and surrounding towns. When Gaetano Descalzi died in 1855, about 600 workers were making Chiavari chairs.[3] The chair was praised by Charles Albert of Savoy, Napoleon III,[4] and by the sculptor Antonio Canova.[5]

The success of the Chiavarina declined following the introduction of the Austrian chairs of Michael Thonet which were mass-produced, less expensive, and consisting of few elements easily assembled, and in the second half of the twentieth century, following competition from industrial production. The architect and designer Gio Ponti was inspired by the structural system of the Chiavari chair for his Superleggera chair of 1955.[6]

Structural features[edit]

The special lightness of the chair is achieved by structural sections: each component is designed according to the specific stresses it will carry. The slot system developed by Gaetano Descalzi contributes to the robustness of the structure.

The timbers originally used by Descalzi were wild cherry and maple, which were added to beech and ash, all of them from inland forests in Italy.

The seat was made with thin strips of purple willow, hand woven in the weft and warp directly to the frame of the chair and tied according to the system devised by Descalzi.

Contemporary use[edit]

Chiavari chairs continue to be made in Italy, where some shops still produce them using traditional methods and materials. They are in use globally where event planners and catering companies appreciate the elegant appearance and lightness of the chair, and its convenient stackability. The Chiavari chair is used in the State Dining Room and Family Dining Room in the White House in Washington, D.C., and silver Chiavaris were used during the inauguration of Barack Obama as seating for his family and guests.


  1. ^ From Rapallo to Sestri Italy Traveller. Retrieved: 2012-04-30.
  2. ^ All About Chiavari Chairs. Retrieved: 2012-04-30.[dead link]
  3. ^ A. Montagni, L. Pessa, L'arte della Sedia a Chiavari, Sagep, Genova 1985, p. 14.
  4. ^ G. B. Brignardello, Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi detto il Campanino e l'arte delle sedie in Chiavari, Cellini, Firenze 1870, p.38
  5. ^ P. A. Lattarulo, Gaetano Descalzi, la sua "chiavarina", i suoi continuatori, Tipografia Colombo, Chiavari 2005, p. 51.
  6. ^ E. Morteo, Grande atlante del design dal 1850 ad oggi, Electa, Milano 2008.


  • A Montagni, L. Pessa, L'arte della Sedia a Chiavari (catalogue of an exhibition held at the Palazzo Rocca in Chiavari), Sagep, Genova, 1985.
  • P. A. Lattarulo, Gaetano Descalzi, la sua "Chiavarina", i suoi continuatori, Tipografia Colombo, Chiavari 2005.
  • F. Casoni, J. Casoni, Le sedie leggere di Chiavari, De Ferrari, Genova 2011.

See also[edit]