The humble chair has long been a staple fixture in our homes. Empty, they beckon us to sit, encouraging us to pull them up, take a seat and let our thoughts unravel. The dining chair, the occasional chair, the thinking chair, the ones that hold our possessions rather than our bodies: all are timeless interior essentials; ones we refuse to go without.
A chair’s design seems simple enough: a seat, back and four legs. But behind these basic principles lies a history of design spanning some 5,000 years that has seen the creation of the most iconic seats of our time. So, let’s take a brief look back shall we?
Sitting has always been a matter of status. It seems the fancier your seat, the more impressive your resume. Oversized thrones from Ancient Egypt are often referred to as the initial variation of the chair. Where the Ancient Romans brought daybeds into the homes of the elite and Ancient Greecians built bench seats for the general public some couple of hundred years later. Skipping forward about forty years, the Romans designed the Curule Chair, and the Greeks the Klismos Chair. Although their armrests and supportive backs were reserved for the upper echelons of society, they were nonetheless an exciting progression forward for the everyday chair. From here on the chair enjoyed a dynamic evolution, largely throughout much of Europe and Western nations, eventually leading to the revolutionary modernist styles given rise just prior to and during the mid-century era — think Nordic ingenuity, Parisian chic and American dreaming.
Why were mid-century chairs admired so dearly you ask? Designers of the time bridged functionality with fashion, they pushed for an effortlessness, a purity and timelessness in their end products that ultimately gave way to chairs that embraced lasting materials and unique silhouettes. These characteristics went on to inform design from the 1970s onward to today.
After much scrolling and scoping, all-the-while keeping this lavish history of chair design in mind, I’ve identified 5 contemporary must-have chairs of the moment to share with you and your toosh. Let the impending chair obsessions begin.
The Statement Chair
The staple, the one you can’t do without. From the LC7 by Charlotte Perriand, to the Butterfly Chair by Bonet-Kurchan-Ferrari, to the Wassily Chair by Marcel Bruer, to the Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to taking notes on acquiring an aesthetic place to sit. I would opt for something understated, keeping said armchairs in mind — less is always more and form follows function after all.
The Dream Dining Chair
Ideal for sitting in while eating large bowls of spaghetti and for leaning on during long conversations with friends. My favourite points of inspiration include the Wishbone Chair by Hans J Wegner, the Cesca Cane Chair by Marcel Bruer and Josef Hoffmann’s No.811. Uncomplicated and paired-back, they each merge traditional craftsmanship with industrial methods and materials.
The Woven Wonders
Nothing makes my heart sing like hand woven cane. As a lover of all dexterous mediums, weaving is a fine example of how natural materials can enhance our everyday spaces and design overall. While cane is currently reliving its shining moment in a big way, it was designs such as The Easy Chair by Pierre Jeanneret, and later, The Ditzel Chair by Nanna Ditzel that started it all.
The Plush and Restful
Stay awhile, maybe forever. Melt into something velvety and soft. For this we champion texture over anything else. Look to sumptuous, tactile materials and playful forms envisioned by the likes of Jean Royère and Pierre Paulin. Employ them liberally in the spaces you wish to fill with unexpected joy.
The Simple Stool
A modest miracle: they’re stackable, multipurpose and can be tucked away neatly in a matter of seconds. Everyone needs a simple stool. I can’t go past the classic Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto. Absolutely genius.
I don’t know about you, but after all of that now I won’t be able to stop looking at chairs for weeks. Who knew that such an everyday piece of furniture could be so fascinating? I love design, and I hope your curiosities have been stirred too.