Sound Like a Designer :: Curule

Neoclassical Curule

Have you ever been around a designer, or a designer-type when they start throwing around words like “enfilade” “en suite,” “bobéche” or the like?  Did you feel like a cartoon character with a huge question mark floating over your head?  Have no fear, I'm going to teach you about the secret language of designers through a new series called “Sound Like a Designer.”  The first term in the series?  Curule.


Ok, ok… so “curule” is really a smarty-pants-make-everyone-feel-dumb way of saying “x-based” stool, but don’t discount the “humble” stool’s contribution to interior design.  The curule is also known as a Savanarola chair or a Dante chair.  Whatever you call it, it is a classic piece that can always be incorporated into any decorating style.


The curule or sella curulis reserved for senior magistrates or promagistrates in the Roman Republic and later in the Roman Empire and was viewed as a form of a throne.  The curule was traditionally made of or veneered with ivory and had curved legs that formed a wide X and had no back and low arms.  Some curules were easily folded and were used by Roman army commanders in the field.

Italy & Spain
In the 15th century a similarly constructed piece was called the Savonarola or Dante chair and was popular throughout Italy and Spain.  By the 16th century, a rigid back was incorporated into the design.

The curule appeared again in the late 18th early 19th century in the French court.  Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered in 1738 and 1748, respectively, which set off a craze for all things Roman as the French were very interested in cultivating their Roman heritage.  The Curule was seen at court during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  Although centuries had passed, the curule was reserved for those with the proper place in society.  Your rank in the French court dictated whether you could sit in an armchair, a simpler chair, a stool…. If you could sit at all!

Napoleon greatly admired the Caesars of ancient Rome and wanted to align himself with them, so it’s no surprise that the curule made its appearance at Napoleon’s Château Malmaison and was a key piece in the Empire style.


The curule, or x-based stool, can be used in practically every room in the house!

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