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The Importance of the Chair

April 22, 2016

SJJ has been thinking about the chair a lot lately, as we hunt for the perfect office chairs. As designers we are throughly overcome with the need to have something that is functional, yet also aesthetically pleasing. Which is not only extremely subjective, but often times these two things don't always correlate. Sometimes beauty ends up being a very back breaking, hard surface concoction, whilst functional chairs (*cough* coined "ergonomical") happen to look like they landed from plastic outer space.

 

Jesse always ends up falling in love with sculpturally beautiful chairs like Arne Jacobsen "Armchair 3217"...

Arne Jacobsen "Armchair 3217" Denmark 1967

 

While James leans more on the comfortable modern chairs like the Eames' "Pollock Chair" 

Eames' "Pollock" Chair 1970

 

Surprisingly no one really knows who invented the chair, or where it originated from (though, SJJ would place money that it all started with a rock), and while it has been historically noted that the Egyptians hold the award for the oldest chair, the idea of the chair can be found throughout the world.  It should also be noted that for a very long time the chair was something that only very affluent people used. In other words, if you were important, you had a comfy way to show your worth. It is not to say that commoners didn't have places to sit, they just did so on stools, benches and chests; back rests and arms were for the nobles. The 16th centure saw the rise in the commonality of the chair in society, though it was still a very simple solution to every day life (primarily made from oak wood), whereas more exploratory materialistic chairs were still reserved for the upper class. It really wasnt until the 1940s that designers questioned the elitism of the chair, and revolutionized it by manufacturing high design, all within an affordable package. Some of t he revolutionists of this moment were the Eames. In the 1950s you could buy an Eames chair for $20 dollars, today you can buy that same chair reproduced for $2000, and originals for upwards of $9000. 

 

The interesting conundrum about this turn of events is that what was once deemed affordable, has now become an expensive design commodity. This has led the market to be flooded with knock of brands, and has left the every day consumer unsure about good design versus saturated design. It has also raised the price point for a "name brand", while ignoring the ingenuity of current designers. One of the things that SJJ strives to incorporate in their daily design spaces is the use of finding interesting, well thought of, exploratory, sometimes handmade chairs (one of them they are simply in love with is David Adjaye's "Skeleton" chair for Knoll, particularly the copper version.) Some of the best fabricators in the world, find their opus in the chair, and that should be revered when people search for the perfect seat. 

David Adjaye's "Skeleton Chair" by Knoll 2013

 

 

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