Style & Shopping

This Chair Can Shape-Shift

Taking you from library seat to top of the shelf.

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When shopping for a step stool, it’s tough to find that perfect balance of form and function—they’re often too clunky and designed without aesthetics in mind (to put it gently). Even the ones that fold flat require storage that not all of us have. For those of you who would sooner resort to standing on a chair and bugging tall friends than buy one, might we suggest a nice-looking chair that morphs into a step ladder? What’s more surprising than the realization that such a genius invention actually exists is the fact that it’s been around since the late 1700s. While scrolling through Instagram this morning, we happened upon a post from Chris Loves Julia depicting the beauty and ingenuity of Plow & Hearth’s 3-Step Wood Folding Ladder Chair in action. It seamlessly folds out from side chair to step ladder within a matter of seconds, requiring only the simple motion of turning over the back of the chair. By the time Julia Marcum was reaching for that top-shelf vase, we were already deep into a Google search for “best ladder chairs.”  

3-Step Wood Folding Ladder Chair, Plow & Hearth

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The chair itself has a vintage look, which we love. And there’s even a small storage shelf underneath. You’d never guess it performs the same function as those aluminum monstrosities we’re used to seeing. And as it turns out, these nifty seats weren’t born yesterday. Originally referred to as metamorphic library chairs, the dual-purpose designs date back to the late 1700s in Great Britain, where they were employed in personal libraries (you gotta reach those first-edition collections somehow!). Today we see their multifunctional powers being put to good use inside spaces with limited square footage and hard-to-access shelving, as demonstrated in Marcum’s Instagram post. “I was in desperate need of a step ladder that I could keep out in our kitchen to access the taller cabinets,” she shares in the accompanying caption. “It has already gotten so much use, and I love that it doubles as our desk chair.”

After spiraling down an Internet hole in search of all the best ladder chairs, we sourced a selection spanning the likes of antique Victorian heirlooms and $110 Amazon scores. It’s worth noting Marcum’s caution that the pricey “step chair” she initially discovered at a high-end antiques shop wasn’t recommended for actual use, so your safer bet (when ordering online) would be to go with a newer buy—unless, of course, you’re more interested in aesthetics.

Below, score your very own metamorphic library chair—a hidden furniture gem that marries form and function.

Shop Our Favorite Ladder Chairs

Paris Manufacturing Co. Metamorphic Side Chair and Library Ladder

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Somerton 4 Step Wood Stool

$210 $185
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3 in 1 Wood Folding Stepladder Chair

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Antique Oak Victorian Metamorphic Library Ladder Chair

$900 $775
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Vintage Metamorphic Indian Wooden Step Ladder Folding Side Chair

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Oak Metamorphic Chair

1st Dibs
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Vintage Antique Victorian Style Hardwood Metamorphic Library Chair

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Early 20th Century French Metamorphic Folding Library Step Ladder Chair From Provence

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Julia Stevens

Contributing Editor

Julia Stevens is a Domino contributing editor. Basically, she’s a professional online shopper. She started at Domino as an intern and spent almost seven years in the style department curating products for our gift guides, trend roundups, and product reviews and on set styling the beautiful homes we get to share. Off hours, you can find her scouting New York’s newest design shops and restyling her shelves