Design Under the Influence: X-Base Stools

Nancy Bozhardt via House Beautiful

[ Nancy Bozhardt via House Beautiful ]

Hello again, it’s Erika from small shop bringing you our 5th edition of “Design Under the Influence” if you can believe it. Time flies when you’re having fun! I’ve been noticing a ton of x-base stools in and around the decor world, and have been tempted on many an occasion to buy one or two. They seem so versatile and chic, especially in pairs. And it’s fascinating to think that their origin dates back thousands of years, doesn’t it? You may or may not know that the x-base stool was originally created by the ancient Egyptians as a fold-up, portable chair with a leather seat for the traveling wealthy — quite practical, even if a bit elitist. In ancient Rome, it became known as the “curule” and was widely used as a campaign seat for commanders in the field, but became a symbol of power for government officials, visiting dignitaries and the Emperor himself (fancier and non-folding with a cushioned seat of course).

The x-stool even made its way to China via the Silk Road, where you’ll see examples of it like the “hu chuang” (2nd century A.D.). And when everything else fell into darkness during the Middle Ages, the x-stool survived as a throne of sorts for the Merovingian kings, later developing into the “Dante” or “Savonarola” chair” in 15th and 16th century Italy and Spain. In a desperate attempt to legitimize rule, Napoleon brought back all things Roman Empire in architecture, clothing (“Empire” waist) and decorative arts. The First French Empire period was short-lived however (1804-1814), and x-stool fell out of style for a time. In modern times, the x-stool is probably best known by its redesigned form in the Barcelona Pavilion stool by Mies van der Rohe. And we’ve seen versions of it from then on with everything from linen, velvet, and zebra seats, with metal or brass legs, or completely upholstered. There seems to be a version for every person’s taste. What’s your favorite incarnation of the x-stool? Peter Pawlak

[ Peter Pawlak ]

Jean-Louis Deniot

[ Jean-Louis Deniot ]

Hermes' Pippa stool, Susan Chalom

[ Hermès Pippa stool, Susan Chalom ]
Todd Romano for Robert Burke
[ Todd Romano for Robert Burke ]
library via The NY Home Observer
[ via The NY Home Observer ]
David Jimenez
[ David Jimenez ]
Jonathan Adler
[ Jonathan Adler ]

Nate Berkus for Kaite Lee Joel

[ Nate Berkus for Katie Lee Joel ]
Hope you enjoyed learning a little something more about this classic piece!

Hope you enjoyed learning a little something more about this classic piece! And if you’re in the market for one, check out my companion post on shopping for x-stools!

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  1. Love this series! So fun learning the history of all these lovely pieces we see all around us. I could use a pair of stools myself. The Jonathan Adler ones look particularly comfy. 🙂

  2. Most of these pics are in my permanent inspiration files because x stools make everything better!! Am loving the office from the NY Observer! Thanks, Erika…
    -e (modern24seven)

  3. Great post! I personally love x-benches that have a metal (gold!) base and then a pretty upholstered seat. So fun to learn more about the history behind these beauties. (And I’m actually in the market for two, so I’m headed to Erika’s blog now for recs!)