July 6, 2011

"Chairs designed by architects for high-profile commissions increasingly are for sale in stores."

"They are often pricy, but the appeal is the chance to bring a slice of cutting-edge international design into your home."

Mentioned in the article are the Arne Jacobsen chairs that we sat in here. Identified in the comments as Arne Jacobsen chairs by Palladian.

Here's a great book: "The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design." (Hey! It has a new cover, and one of the chairs pictured on it is a chair I have. Cool! Not sure I'd call that a "chair" though. Or... yeah... it's a chair. A chair long.)


Fred4Pres said...

Architects often make uncomfortable chairs. They want you to look good but you have to sacrifice comfort.

Actually I think most architects who design these chairs would prefer if you did not sit in them at all. Messes up the aesthetics.

MadisonMan said...

Isn't this the whole idea behind Design Within Reach?

I was in their store in Boulder a month or so ago, taking refuge from a Hail Storm, and tried some of the chairs. They didn't fit me.

Every chair I've seen designed by FLW looks very uncomfortable as well. Never sat in one, however.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yeah, but I bought a very nice office chair from Sam's Club that came in at about $150.

Everybody who visits my house wants to sit in it.

Ann Althouse said...

The Arne Jacobsen chair was extremely comfortable. And I've sat in a lot of architect's chairs that were quite great. Everything I've ever tried at Design Within Reach was excellent. Maybe you're too tall, Madison Man.

Steve in Toronto said...

Check out this image of another great chair by Arne Jacobsen http://www.meatbeerbabes.com/2011/06/10/christine-keeler/

raptros-v76 said...

Architects designing chairs is sort of like electrical/computer engineers designing programming languages. Sure, they can do the job, sure, you'll get a working programming language, sure, people who care about design will get all excited, but at the end of the day, you'll still feel a bit worried when you try to sit on it. Wait, that's not right.

LarsPorsena said...

AA is rationalizing an expensive purchase for Meadehouse.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, we're in the territory of status purchases for the wealthy here.

As, I said, I purchased a great office chair at Sam's Club for $150. It's incredibly comfortable. I have to fight with guests over who gets to sit in it.

But, I don't underestimate the pleasure of status purchases. When my wife was still in this vale of tears, and we had two big paychecks coming in every two weeks, we bought whatever in the hell we wanted to buy.

It was great fun. We paid cash for the Harley and drove it away.

Even more fun than keeping up with the Joneses is leaving them in the dust and laughing at their poor taste.

ricpic said...

When I was a kid I was tremendously impressed by an Eames lounge chair and ottoman that my uncle, who worked at IBM, had in his living room. There was something so "official" in my mind about the company and the chair. And he had both! Awesome.

chuckR said...

Many years ago, one of the CAD software companies would tell its new application engineers to pick out any chair they wanted, price no object, but that it better be comfortable because the new hire's ass was going to be in it for more hours than out of it.
That's the chair you want.

Steve in Toronto said...

Plus this one by Marcel Breuer http://www.flickr.com/photos/20745656@N00/225598491/
And this one by and Le Corbusier (and Charotte Perriand)

traditionalguy said...

In the midst of a financial depression the affordable luxury items sell like hotcakes. People with money will buy a distinctive design item that "wastes a little money", at the same time they defer big expenditures for now.

I believe I have that American Standard executive chair for $150 from Costco. It is leather on the front and imitation leather on the back.

But downsizing house sizes today makes many chairs surplus.

MadisonMan said...

Our most comfortable chair is a Stickley.

The most comfortable chair I've ever sat in is also a Stickley -- Leopold's Chair. I sat in a version once done in leather. Heaven.

Sixty Grit said...

I found a Herman Miller Aeron chair while walking the dogs - one of my fat stupid neighbors threw it away and I snagged it. I called Herman Miller and they sent a repair guy who replaced the pneumatic cylinder for free. It is still the best chair in my house.

The Crack Emcee said...

Maybe you're too tall, Madison Man.

Or maybe they're not designing for actual people.

I'm getting fed up with chairs. Seeing the damage they do is getting to be disturbing. I'm not part of the chairs will kill you crowd, but I'm definitely down with avoiding them when you can.

Spine-wreckers, almost every one. I'll take a decent couch, that I can stretch out on, any day.

I ain't doing shit because it's repeated anymore.

Ann Althouse said...

"As, I said, I purchased a great office chair at Sam's Club for $150. It's incredibly comfortable. I have to fight with guests over who gets to sit in it."

I have purchased and worn through various office chairs over the years, and in the process, I discovered the flaws in the construction, such as the way, after a while, you can feel the bolts holding the seat to the frame.

Then, about 15 years ago, I shelled out maybe $500 for an adjustable desk chair, and it's been perfect all these years. It was made by Phoenix Designs in Zeeland, Michigan. It dates back to before anyone was buying Aeron Chairs (which wouldn't work for me because I like to fold my legs up in the semi-lotus position, and the hard edge doesn't work for that).

Okay, I just did some research. Phoenix Designs is a subsidiary of Herman Miller, which came out with the Aeron Chair in 1994. My chair, which was called the Avian, also came out in that year.

The Avian was designed by Tom Newhouse:

"Engaged in what he calls the "primarily macho profession" of industrial design, he is also an advocate of women. "Well over half of all office workers are women, and I try to design products that offer them the same comfort and control that men enjoy.""

Thanks to Newhouse from Oldhouse. You've made me comfortable and in control for 15 years.

The Crack Emcee said...

Maybe you're too tall, Madison Man.

I just re-read that. What a thing to say,...

Hagar said...

Architects do not care how you look or feel. In fact they would rather you stayed away from their chairs; you just spoil the whole esthetic impact of their design.

Ann Althouse said...

"I just re-read that. What a thing to say,..."

You don't like dry humor. I'll try to moisten it next time.

Ann Althouse said...

Wait that was the next time.

Ann Althouse said...

Was it moist enough?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

When I was a kid I was tremendously impressed by an Eames lounge chair and ottoman

Me too!! I love that set.

A chair should be not only good to look at, but also comfortable and suited to the purpose it was designed for. Reading. Sitting and conversing. Eating. Working at a desk.

Architects can design intriguing and interesting shapes, but if it isn't comfortable it might as well be a giant doorstop. Function over form form me.

Our favorite chair is one that was part of my husband's mother's wedding furniture set, over 60 years ago. The chair before and AFTER Comfy for reading with a small ottoman (not shown)

We had a couch that went with the chair but gave it away because it was so uncomfortable. Like sitting on a concrete rack of pain.

traditionalguy said...

Don't let the Chinese start designing a one size fits all chair for Americans. They are too short...except for Yao Ming who is way too tall.

Ann Althouse said...

My father loved his Contour Chair, and for those of you like Steve in Toronto who like images of chairs with females sitting on them, here's a picture of me sitting on it (not really in it) when I was a teenager. (Sorry, I can't find the uncropped photo at the moment.)

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

Was it moist enough?

Yeah, I guess so. LOL.

rhhardin said...

Check out the very apt page on what a chair is, by Stanley Cavell, who is highlighting a kind of uncertainty that is a respect for language.

rhhardin said...


Compare Cavell's chair to same sex marriage, and you have the conservative objection to it.

It's the wrong word.

edutcher said...

One problem is that not all chairs do the same thing (or things) for all backs.

When I worked for the IRS, the first chair I had was one of those old stenographer's chairs. Murder on my back.

Ann Althouse said...

"I just re-read that. What a thing to say,..."

You don't like dry humor. I'll try to moisten it next time.

Uh oh, she's on a roll. It must be all the free time.

Peter said...

I thought the last architect chair that one could actually sit in was the Eames chair.

Generally, the idea of an "architect chair" is, something unusual enough to get the architect noticed. Uniqueness and authenticity (whatever that means) are what is valued; mere utilitarian value is for schlebbs who design stuff that's sold in furniture stores.

Of course, there's a marketing opportunity here. But marketers should beware, lest the architect-brand should subtract from the value of the merchandise (much as "Martha Stewart" on the outside of something, anything, reduces the number of potential customers willing to even consider the purchase).

gerry said...

The Barcelona, he emphasizes, is a "recognizable status symbol," like "a high-end car."

Something really expensive to put your ass on.

t-man said...

I really, really want this chaise from Thos Moser.

chuckR said...

No fair t-man. You are now talking about people who make a living selling chairs and related functional seating. I'd add a rocker by Sam Maloof to your wish list. And, if you must have something ultra, a Conoid chair by George Nakashima.

When I could afford a nice set of dining room chairs I had a set of six made in Greene and Greene style, but I couldn't afford the fancy piercing and carving and inlays. Stickley has similar chairs with the carving and piercings for a fraction of the cost, but the proportions aren't right, the wood is wrong and the finish is wrong too. Made in their Vietnamese factory by woodworkers with skills we no longer can muster at affordable prices.

Fred4Pres said...

My wife bought a leather sectional. It comes in early August. It took 12 steers to make it. I intend to sit on it and watch Gunsmoke and The Virginian on Netflix.

Fred4Pres said...

The Arne Jacobsen chair reminds me of Clockwork Orange. So while it is comfortable, it would also cause me a sense of dread. Not because some hooligans will break in, but because my seven year old might stain it while watching Phineas & Ferb.

Okay, I am kidding.

In terms of uncomfortable chairs, I was thinking Wright and MacIntosh.

Here is a man stool if you are interested.

Here is a good chair link.

Fred4Pres said...

I would like a real shaker chair. Those Shakers did great work.

Fred4Pres said...

I do like Mies' Barcelona chair. And it is comfortable. I think it takes one or two steers (with the ottoman) to make one of those.

yashu said...

rhhardin, I've wanted to say for a while, love your love for Cavell-- my favorite living philosopher, by far.

Such an interesting idea-- hadn't occurred to me-- to take a Cavellian/ Wittgensteinian approach to the question of gay marriage. Actually, both sides could avail themselves of that approach; but it requires a great deal of good faith & honesty, meeting one's antagonist/ interlocutor on the level playing-field of a shared (yet always contestable & contested) language. The criteria for which are much more complicated than we think, not subject merely to "convention," but embedded in & inextricable from a form of life.

As for chair designers, I'm most fond of Eames, the Scandinavians (Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Poul Kjaerholm, Eero Saarinen), & Pierre Paulin.

george said...

Ann Althouse,

Was it moist enough?

That such a remark from a woman could be allowed to pass unmolested indicates to me that I am traveling with much better company than I am accustomed to keeping.

My family has always been in the furniture business and there is a good bit of difference in something that is well made vs. something that is not. But style (and far too often price) is a completely unrelated matter to quality of construction. Comfort unfortunately is not unrelated and stylish chairs are uncomfortable much more often than not. Chairs are made the way they are for a reason.

And an uncomfortable chair is a bit like a toilet without a hole in it. Aesthetically it may be more pleasing to the eye but in actual use you are likely to find the experience less than satisfactory.

kcom said...

From Althouse's chair long link:

"My American friend insists that in American English, the recliner he has on his deck is called a chaise lounge, and that all Americans pronounce it that way. I pointed out to him that all Americans are pronouncing it incorrectly, but he is unconvinced. Would you care to comment?"

Did I tell you it wasn't until I was in my late 40s that I found out that a chaise lounge wasn't really a chaise lounge? It happened like five minutes ago. How embarrassing. ;)