Online Chairs, a Complete Guide
- The chair’s history
- Relationship between chairs and power
- The great inventors of chairs
- Outdoor chairs
- Indoor chairs
- Chairs and back ache, a long history
- Structural features of the chairs
- The style
- Particular chairs
THE CHAIR’S HISTORY
In the exact moment when the primitive men understood that standing made feel tired, and that sitting on the ground was probably very uncomfortable and could cause severe back pain, at that very moment, they decided it was time not to move more pieces of trunk or large stones, and invented the first rudimentary bench.
Of course, this bench was probably made of stone, big and heavy, fixed in a precise point, even a bit uncomfortable, but better than nothing.
We must confess that the story just mentioned is not entirely true, because nobody exactly knows when the men really started to conceive the idea of having a place dedicated to the sitting. What we can confirm, however, is that it all started with a bench, a bench perhaps similar to the one we described you.
The bench, therefore, ancestor of the first chairs, spread both in Asia and in Europe and became very common thanks to the feature of a very large seat, capable of accommodating several people at the same time, even if in an upright position and quite uncomfortable.
The first documented evidence, mostly pictorial or sculptural, about the existence of objects similar to a chair, or at least having the same function, can be dated to a period before the birth of Christ. In ancient Egypt chairs were built in order to respect the natural forms to avoid creating chaos in the harmony of the universe (concepts far removed from modern ergonomic chairs against back ache). So very refined objects were created, made with most precious materials of the time (golded wood, ebony, ivory), at whose feet slaves or animals were depicted. Some very rare specimens are preserved in the most important museums in the world. An example is this chair by Kha in wood and vegetable fibers, which can be seen at the Egyptian museum in Turin.
In Greek and Roman times chairs were of marble, very robust and often adorned with sphinxes. A testimony of these objects can be found, for example, in Athens, where Zeus is depicted on the decorative frieze of the Parthenon sitting on a sort of square stool, with curved legs and a back bar like a backrest.
Curule chair, which was associated with a very evident form of temporal power, is also of a decidedly Roman age. First reserved to the Kings of Rome, its use was extended also to magistrates, called curuli, able to exercise judicial power. Given its particular shape, curule chair can be probably considered the ancestor of what we now call a folding chair. The very famous one used by the monk Girolamo Savonarola is still preserved in the rooms of the convent of San Marco in Florence.
Remaining in the ecclesiastical sphere two typical chairs for these environments should also be mentioned: the chair and the bench. The term cathedra means “place where you sit” and identifies a chair with a back but without arms, often used also by philosophers during their lessons. Very famous, also because it is accompanied by a legendary story, is the chair of St. Peter. The legend states that it really belonged to the Saint, the first Pope of Rome. For this reason the relic is still preserved in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican. Now we talk about medieval chairs. Even in this age we did not yet have the perception of the importance of chairs to avoid back ache. The average life expectancy was very low and the causes of death really too many to worry about the trifles that today we consider “problems”. In Middle Ages and in the years immediately following the dominant motif in the making of chairs was once again the religious one. Inspired by the scene of the annunciation, by the coming of the Magi, by the Saints or by the baptism of Jesus Christ, the artists of the time built amazing chairs in stone, cast bronze, leather, oak wood and golden plaster, in which they often succeeded in inserting depictions of animals and flowers. Among the most beautiful we can mention the chair of the abbots of Glastonbury and the chair of Dagobert, kept in the Louvre museum
Only in the Renaissance did the chair stop being the prerogative of the wealthier classes to spread to almost all European homes.
In French homes, for example, it took the name of Banc and was distinguished by a very heavy and massive structure. The bench was positioned near the fireplace, where most of the domestic life took place, and was never moved, not even during meals, when it was preferred to approach the table before sitting down. In the same historical period in Tuscany there is the so-called panca a dossale, interesting not so much for its grooved shelf feet, but above all because it was designed to facilitate the comfort of wanting to sit down thanks to the presence of an opened espalier. The appearance of this espalier at this historical moment suggests that, with the spread of the chair among the “general public”, there was a first perception of the importance of comfort to avoid back ache and various health problems.
In the seventeenth century spread the so-called bergere chair, a first form of upholstered armchair, made with bamboo, walnut, leather and mahogany (a new wood arrived from the other side of the world: Cuba).
In the Rococo period chairs became a little more sober and slender, even if they continue to present elaborate workings of the backs and legs. The style adopted in this period is called “chiappendale“.
Really fervent years for the novelties and the changes in the production techniques of the chairs are those at the turn of the end of the 800 and the end of the 900. In this century, indeed, important changes of the industrial system succeeded above all in France and in England. Thus was born what was defined as the golden age for the chair and the artistic current called Art Nouveau.
In the 1950s and 1960s, coinciding with the second post-war period, new materials joining the wood, namely laminate, plexiglass, aluminum, foams and various plastics entered the scene. This coincides with the diffusion of Pop Art inspired by a search for originality and creative imagination, in which artists indulge in a search for shapes and colours never used before.
Finally, in the 1990s, the creation of chairs focused on the search for a prevailing feature: functionality. This is why the predilection shifts to simple but versatile forms and materials, which above all allow large-scale productions.
Only in the last decade, however, with the great increase in sedentary jobs, the concept of functionality has been associated with ergonomics. Back ache, scoliosis, hernias and other spinal pathologies have led designers to think about chairs differently.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHAIRS AND POWER
The chair has not been always an everyday object as we mean it today. We have already seen how it was only in the Renaissance period that it spread steadily in the homes of ordinary people, but what happened before the Renaissance? Who had the chairs? How did they use them? How were they built? Did they cause discomfort, back ache, pain, worries, or did these aspects take second place compared to the prestige and social role associated with the chair?
You can find answers to all these questions in the binomial chair-power, which has characterized the history of humanity for many centuries.
One thing you may never have noticed is the incredible parallelism that exists between the human body and the parts of a chair. Arms, legs, feet and back are supporting elements both for one and for the other, and as supporting elements they are used to hold the weight, to maintain the structure at any time.
Probably from these similarities comes the desire to create a symbolic association between the chairs and the condition of man, his dignity and his social role, more particularly between the type of chair and the amount of power held by the occupant .
The placement of animals, but even more of slaves, under the feet of primitive chairs cannot be by chance. This meant the desire for domination, for the overwhelming of some men of power compared to others of his kind or to other living species.
We have already mentioned the symbolism of the curule chair, but the same is even more evident in the case of the portable throne. It was indeed a mobile chair, carried on the shoulder by four men (who, unlike the illustrious transported, suffered from excruciating back pain and other atrocious pains), on which the newly elected popes sat to be led in triumph among the cheering crowd. Some sources claim that the same transport system was also used for bishops, Roman emperors and consuls.
Unfortunately it is not possible to exactly determine the origin of this custom, what we can do is to underline the enormous disparity between the living conditions of a powerful person and those of his subjects, made explicit by physical as well as symbolic submission.
The chair par excellence meaning power is undoubtedly the throne. It is a ceremonial seat whose intrinsic feature is the exaltation of the power of those who are destined to sit down. Also the shape is in line with this concept, indeed almost always the thrones present a very high, imposing backrest, and a sublime workmanship with very precious materials. Moreover in the literature and in mythology the throne is associated with figures of great power like gods, monarchs, sovereigns and priests.
Even today, if we look closely, there are tangible examples of the association between chair and authority. Just think of the British House of Commons, of which the chair is the emblem.
At the same time there are psychological associations, less tangible but equally meaningful in our society, which show us the concept of power. We will give you just one example that makes this clear: how many times have you said or heard that politicians only aim at the armchair, or that they never give up the armchair? Unfortunately the custom of distinguishing those who break their bones by dint of hard work and back pain, and whoever commands from the comfort of an armchair is as old as man and perhaps never fades. Here we are, now we are certain that the concept will not go unnoticed.
THE GREAT INVENTORS OF CHAIRS
Like any other consumer item on the market, chairs have also been produced and designed with different techniques and tools depending on the historical period of reference, but above all according to the great inventors and designers over the years.
In this special list a prominent first place must be reserved for Michael Thonet, an Austro-Hungarian carpenter who in 1859 created the famous Thonet n.14. The approach of this cabinetmaker to the design of chairs was truly revolutionary and succeeded in upsetting all the certainties accumulated for decades, conditioning European production and furnishings throughout the 800s.
In particular, Michael Thonet had an extraordinary intuition: he was the first to understand that the wood did not have to assume a necessarily square shape, but could be folded and worked through a process of dampening with water vapor. Once wet and folded, the piece of wood was then placed in special metal molds and left to dry. Nowadays this technique is widely used, with more modern production systems, for the manufacture of arched legs for ergonomic chairs that reduce back ache.
Thanks to this simple idea he succeeded in building the chair that for at least a century furnished all the cafés and bistros of Europe. Made up of only 6 pieces (including the one folded to form backrest and back legs) and 10 screws, this chair amazed everyone with its lightness, elegance and simplicity.
Another outstanding designer in the field of chairs was Gio Ponti: Italian, Milanese. The talent of this great architect and artist was expressed between 1891 and 1979. In 1955 he designed the famous Superleggera/699, produced by Cassina company.
This chair stems from Ponti’s desire to reinvent, and update over the twentieth century, a typical object of the 19th century Ligurian manufacturing tradition, Chiavari chair. Starting from this idea, he tries to add touches of modernity and customization (such as the triangular section of the legs), to build an object destined to become a cultural and technological symbol, even before being functional.
The experiment related to the first presentation of the chair is curious. To demonstrate its solidity, indeed, Gio Ponti decides to launch it from the fourth floor of a building, demonstrating that the same, once on the ground, does not break but almost bounces, remaining intact.
Verner Panton, a contemporary of Gio Ponti, conceived the homonymous Panton chair in an uncertain period between 1959 and 1960. Sinuous lines capable of following the shape of the human body, plastic as a building element and a tilting monoblock structure; these few features are enough to make people understand the deeply innovative aim of the project and the consequent success. More or less consciously, in those years Panton was already aiming at the concept of comfort above all, so no harsh lines, rigid materials and above all no back ache. Over the years the materials and sizes have been revisited (a smaller version was indeed built for children) but the fame remained absolutely unchanged.
Other designers worthy of mention are: Marcel Breurer and his chair made of tubular steel, ergonomic and foldable, that is a source of inspiration for Alvar Alto, creator of the first plywood chair. We still remember Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, very famous after World War II, Joe Colombo in the 70s and Philippe Stark, Ron Arad and Gaetano Pesce in the 80s.
Among the main names of the 90s we must mention two lovers of functionality and large-scale production, namely Frank Ghery and Jasper Morrison.
There is no doubt about one thing. When it comes to chairs, the first natural association is the one that makes you think of a space, closed, inside your home.
If we talked about chairs according to this logic, however, we would risk ignoring a world as vast as it is interesting, involving a large number of environments and chairs that have little to do with the interior of a house.
So let’s explore together all the main types of outdoor chairs and their locations. It is important to clarify right from the start that these chairs are designed paying particular attention to design and almost always do not require ergonomic structural attention for a correct posture, to avoid back ache or other discomfort.
Leaving the domestic walls but without going too far we could stop on the terrace or under the portico. Or if you are luckier, you may need garden chairs.
Outdoor chairs can be of various types, shapes and materials. Let’s start from here, from the material. The most used is wood, with its versatility during construction and adaptability to any furnishing style.
A wooden chair fits well both a classic and a retro style, it can be hardly described as de-contextualised, except in cases of very modern furnishings. The main disadvantage for a wooden chair destined to outdoor use is the tendency to wear out due to bad weather. As it is known, wood is a material that is very affected by atmospheric conditions and undergoes deep structural variations if exposed for long periods to rain, fog or intense sun. If we wanted to make a comparison we could say that a wooden chair is like the human body: if you go around unprotected and you expose yourself to bad weather then you can’t complain about headaches, back ache, stiff neck or flu.
Fortunately, deterioration is not an unsolvable problem. A little manual skills, patience and good will are enough. There are treatments and specific products that will help you revitalize your wooden chairs, bringing them back to the shine of when you bought them. Certainly in this case the comparison made before does not hold, maybe it was so simple to “fix” a man. That’s why you often find yourself alleviating your little ailments, treating stiff neck or back pain with a calming, which puts off the problem without going to the root.
Another material that is widely used, especially in the last 50/60 years, is plastic. Plastic chairs have the advantage of being light and cheap.
These features should not be underestimated, mainly by virtue of the fact that we have long been living in an age of consumerism, in which the possibility of buying versatile items at low prices is very attractive.
A plastic chair can be more subject to weather than the wooden one, it can be easily moved from one room to another, and if it should break (the resistance is a weak point) it can be replaced without spending a lot. Even the design can be particular and highly sought after, just take a look at the Calligaris Hero model to understand it.
An equally light but much more solid material is aluminum. The solidity and the superior quality negatively affect the price, obviously higher than that of the plastic.
An important note about aluminum is the excellent resistance to rain and weather in general. This makes it the favorite material for those who know they don’t have enough space to store their chairs during winter, or for those who simply have no desire or time to continually move them.
The rattan chairs / armchairs are widely used both on the spacious terraces and in the gardens. Usually those who buy them prefer to opt for the whole “living room” by adding a table, so as to reproduce a perfect environment for conviviality, where to stop with friends for an aperitif or relax while sipping a cocktail.
. If you have a swimming pool in the garden, and a beautiful solarium next to the pool, then you can’t overlook the idea of buying deckchairs.
These have the peculiarity of allowing those who are seated a double choice. Indeed, you can sit both in a classic way and in a relaxed position. The backrest is reclining and sometimes there is a removable extension on which you can rest your legs.
The deckchairs are foldable, precisely because they are intended for seasonal or occasional use, and they are made with materials resistant to bad weather conditions.
Something we have to highlight: although we have included them among outdoor chairs, there are also some purely indoor deckchairs, often used instead of the bed (even if they are decidedly more uncomfortable) in emergency situations. Not infrequently they can be found in hospitals, where they are used for fleeting rest when one needs to spend the night next to a beloved one.
Together with the deckchairs we can also mention the outdoor loungers. They too have a double function: they can be used to sleep during the hottest hours, or as a surface to lie on to have a healthy regenerating massage (nothing better when you want to relax or you want to relieve tension, back ache and stress accumulated during the day).
Public places (outdoors)
Listing public spaces is rather difficult given the variety of places that can be traced back to this definition. For this reason we have preferred to make a further distinction, starting from open-airplaces.
In these contexts it is often better to refer to benches rather than to chairs. You will have already understood that attention must be put on any place that can offer a place to sit, it makes no difference whether it is a park or a very simple sidewalk on the roadside. We are talking in any case of those places where you sit to read a good book or simply look around, where there are merry-go-rounds with children having fun, the jogging health-conscious and the employee who stretches because he has back ache after 8 hours spent in the office.
Sometimes it happens that the chairs found in open public spaces have a shape with the classic single seat. Much more often, however, they are designed to accommodate a greater number of people, given the high number of potential users, and consequently have a longer seat, with the typical shape of a bench.
The material can vary from metal (iron, aluminum, wrought iron) to plastic, passing through stone, marble or wood. The choice can be made depending on the specific context in which they are placed, the budget invested in the purchase and the willingness to carry out more or less frequent maintenance.
Among outdoor public spaces there are also places dedicated to sporting or artistic events. In this case we talk about stadiums, arenas, squares, etc.
Depending on the event and the structure, whether it is an occasional concert or a stadium built for thirty years, a certain number of seats is almost mandatory. There is a great variety of solutions to this function. Notwithstanding that many events (such as the more “lively” concerts) involve the use, in addition to seats, even of the space in front of the stage, where a flood of people dances, jumps, has fun before coming back home with a little pain.
So in a square equipped for a classical concert you can place very common plastic chairs. Whereas the spectators who attend the same concert from the stands of an arena, certainly have no choice but to sit on small plastic seat fixed to the steps, designed to protect the back, without armrests or backrest.
The same seats are present in 80% of the Italian stadiums, rather obsolete structures, dating back to the last soccer world championships played in Italy, in 1990. In the few modern systems, more ergonomic seats were installed with the same shape but a rubber covering, to make the seat comfortable.
We would then have to discuss the real usefulness of these small seats, given that because of the few all the others have to watch the game standing, with the real risk of coming back home with a severe back ache without having seen anything.
Inside the stadium there are also other highly visible chairs: the benches for the athletes and the chair for the referee.
Those that were once the uncomfortable iron benches on which players were waiting to take the field, today they are instead comfortable armchairs, which are distinguished mainly by the well-visible sponsor logo or the self-heating system.
The referee’s chair is also designed in a different way than in the past. To begin with, it is no longer a chair but several chairs. As the number of referees, linesmen, assistants, and additional staff increases, the chairs available to them are obviously increased. Furthermore, the turnover linked to the sponsors has also transformed these very normal metal and wood chairs into extra-luxury, comfortable and welcoming armchairs.
Those that were once the uncomfortable iron benches on which players were waiting to take the field, today they are instead comfortable armchairs, which are distinguished mainly by the well-visible sponsor logo or the self-heating system.
The referee’s chair is also designed differently than in the past. To begin with, it is no longer a chair but several chairs. As the number of referees, linesmen, assistants, and additional staff increases, the chairs available to them are obviously increased. Furthermore, the turnover linked to the sponsors has also transformed these very normal metal and wood chairs into extra-luxury, comfortable and welcoming armchairs.
We cannot be surprised by these changes if we consider the amount of money and privileges related to the world of football. Suffice it to say that pay-TVs come with their cameras in the locker room, showing us personalized massagers intent on loosening up the muscles of the athletes, alleviating pain due to stretching, contractures, back pain, strains, etc.
Also in this case, as we have done for outdoor chairs, the analysis we are going to present you will be divided into two macro areas. At first we will talk about the domestic environments, that is all the chairs you use every day in your home. Subsequently we will focus our attention on chairs used indoors, but not within the walls of a private house, but in the most disparate and unthinkable environments.
INSIDE the House
To describe the chairs at home we can try a fantasy game: let’s imagine doing a little trip together in a hypothetical home, crossing it room after room, scanning every corner in search of the present chairs (or that we could add). We are sure that at the end of the game you will be amazed at how many different chairs can be in the various rooms.
A path that respects itself must start from an entrance and from the corridor (if present).
Often little attention is paid to the furnishing of the entrance, perhaps because it is considered a place that is too little lived, a simple place of passage. On closer inspection, however, it is here that the style of a furnishing is revealed. Making the right choices serves to offer an essential eye-catcher before entering the main rooms. Well, if the entrance is sufficiently spacious, it could host beautiful armchairs like Lazy, which can be combined for example with a footrest.
If the corridor is narrower and only allows the installation of a key rest console, with a mirror above it, you certainly can’t miss a suitable chair to embellish the whole.
In the corridor there are a series of doors that lead us to the other rooms. A few steps and on the right we find the living area: the living room or dining room. Here the speech becomes more important and the choice is more difficult. In the living room, first of all, there is one of the two main tables of the house, together with the kitchen table, and you know that a table without chairs has little reason to exist.
Whether the living room of your dreams has a modern or classic decor there will certainly be stylish chairs next to your table. Let’s try to see some examples together. Esta chair by Bontempi would look great in a modern living room, with a glass and metal table, while Nunzia chair is oriented towards poor art, as can also be seen from the extendible walnut-effect rectangular table.
We could go on for hours showing the possible solutions for the chairs and the living room table, but we must not forget that frequently in this room there is also a corner dedicated to relax, conviviality. A place to lie down to relax your legs or relieve back ache when you are alone, or to stay with others to relax or drink coffee.
This scenario is very different from sitting at the table, in this case, indeed, a particular characteristic is sought in the seat: comfort. The market is rich in proposals able to satisfy this need.
You can choose to sit on a classic armchair, in fabric, leather or any other material you prefer; but you can also decide to buy a chair like Elisa model by Stones, perfect for both lazy and incurable people who live with an elderly person who has mobility problems, leg problems or chronic back ache.
If, on the other hand, you love to take a nap after meals but don’t want to go to bed, perhaps what suits you is an armchair or, even better, a reclining sofa.
A very popular choice in recent years is to combine the armchair in the living room with a pouf, in addition to the inevitable coffee table. The poufs can be practical and functional (for example with the possibility of becoming cots, like this), or they can be prominent pieces of furniture, very particular and elegant; just look at this Balans Varier footrest to understand what we’re talking about.
Well now it’s probably time to leave the living room, take a few steps and enter the realm of the chair, the kitchen.
One thing that maybe nobody thinks about is that you spend most of your time sitting in the kitchen. If indeed we exclude the moments dedicated to cooking, the remaining hours are spent eating, chatting, playing cards or a board game (always sitting at the table), relaxing sitting in front of a fireplace (if you have one) and so on, without ever carrying out activities that include positions other than seating.
This premise shows us the way to understand how important the choice of chairs for the kitchen can be. Once again, just like in the living room, and even more, two fundamental concepts occur that must guide your preferences: conviviality and comfort.
You may be wondering why we are not talking about furniture, style, table-chair combinations, line etc. You can find the answer to this question in the premise: in a place where you spend many hours sitting, eating or socializing, it is absolutely essential to do so in absolute comfort, leaving the rest in the background. Rather we should perhaps talk about ergonomics for these chairs because it seems trivial to say, but even the hours sitting in the kitchen, in the same position, can cause leg pain, back pain and heaviness.
Consequently, the chairs for the kitchen should preferably be light, because they are constantly moved, soft, ergonomic, in a word, comfortable. Sofia model by Bontempi could represent an optimum in this sense, since in addition to the features listed above it also has the advantage of being waterproof, that is water resistant and easy to clean; which, being a kitchen chair, certainly doesn’t hurt.
At the end of the corridor, on the right, there is the bedroom. When entering, you cannot miss the chair in the corner at the foot of the bed. More than a chair, to be honest, it is a small armchair with a double function: on the one hand, it is perfectly integrated into the bedroom, completing and enriching the furnishings, on the other it is used every evening as clothes rests. Especially if there is no coat hanger in the house, the usefulness of this chair is unmatched, as obvious as it is indispensable.
If you belong to the unfortunate category of people who suffer from insomnia or who cannot stay a long time due to back ache, that chair is vitally important. Choose it well because, unfortunately, it will be your trusted night companion.
Even in the bathroom, where you can’t imagine there may be chairs, there are often furnishing accessories also intended for sitting. In particular, these are often small multi-function stools that are used both for seating and as an object rest. In some cases they can be even more versatile and also come in as a container, like Molger model proposed by Ikea.
Another type of stool (or chair) common in older people’s bathrooms is the shower chair; this is used by all those subjects who have motor difficulties, more or less serious problems, from simple back ache to a dramatic paresis. Unfortunately they are not able to be autonomous in the bathtub, so they need a person to help them while they are sitting.
To finish with the rooms of the house that we are imagining to visit, let us go to the futuristic home theater room, dedicated to reading, to music and of course to watching films, just like a real cinema. The room could have the classic sofas, perfect for the purpose, but for the most demanding the ideal solution is the armchair specifically designed for these environments. To get an idea of what we are talking about take a look at the HCM Rome model: comfortable, electrically adjustable, storage compartment in the armrest, possibility of adding a swivel coffee table, a tablet holder or even the LED lights in the cup holder. In short, a real home cinema.
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE, IN DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS
With the increase in digitization and related works, there has also been a sharp increase in the number of hours spent at the computer, in front of a desk. All the office works involve the use of a PC and often we find ourselves sitting in the same position for many hours, every day. This could naturally lead to back and spine problems in the long term (ranging from classic back ache to hernias or vertebrae crushing), negatively affecting the psychophysical state of the worker and, more generally, of man.
Certainly you can’t think that all the jobs have to leave aside the use of the computer, consequently what needs to be done is to improve the posture while you are sitting thanks to the use of chairs designed for this purpose.
Office chairs should have some mandatory features, namely: possibility of height adjustment, backrest and armrest adjustment, ergonomic backrest, directional casters, inclination of the entire structure both forwards and backwards, headrest. These peculiarities are absolutely necessary both for those who, as we said, work in the office, and for those who have to sit for many hours a day for other reasons (such as students).
The most advanced models and details of office chairs even have the knee rests, which help keep the spine and legs in the correct position, avoiding the onset of the problems mentioned above, including the inevitable back ache.
We have just mentioned the students thinking about them at home, but in reality the boys spend a lot of time sitting among the school desks.
Whether it is kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school or university, the chairs in the classroom have some common features: they are always produced in series and stackable, so that they can be easily set aside when larger spaces are needed in the classroom, they must also have a height proportionate to the bench, so as not to distort the posture.
The materials instead change according to the school, in particular the seats for a nursery school are often made in coloured plastic, while iron and beech are preferred for all the other schools.
A peculiarity is frequently found in university classrooms, where there are no real independent chairs, but those that are called chairs on a beam or on a bar, since it is a series of reclining seats (which are automatically closed when not occupied) fixed to the same axis or beam. They also take the name of bench seats. They are often equipped with a series of accessories such as the armrests or the writing top that rises and falls as needed.
The chairs on the bench or on the bar open the doors to a universe of different environments in which they are used, with small variations in some features, which differentiate them from one another.
Frequently chairs on bar are found in waiting rooms (stations, airports, public offices, hospitals or health facilities), in cinemas, theaters and auditoriums. In some cases they have two or three seats, while in others they are fixed to a much longer bench, in the auditoriums for example there may also be twenty or thirty seats in the same row.
The material can also vary: from the simple plastic chair of a common waiting room, to the more padded and ergonomic ones, with fabric or leather covering, present in theaters or cinemas. In some models the chairs fixed to the bar are interspersed with the presence of a small table: the classic example is that of a dentist’s waiting room, where a large number of magazines can be found resting on this table.
Although it is rarer, sometimes chairs on bar are also found in hotel waiting rooms. Much more often, however, in these rooms there are comfortable and elegant armchairs. A world apart, then, are the restaurants and bars. In these rooms there are two options for sitting: at the tables, where the chairs are in line with the furniture, and at the bar counter, where there are usually no chairs but raised stools with footrests, like this model Diavoletto by Scab Design. Although the stools may seem more uncomfortable due to the absence of a backrest, paradoxically they could promote health and avoid back ache, forcing the individual to have the spine in a more upright position.
In pubs instead, generally we choose the benches, much more suited to the rustic style; if instead you opt for chairs they are almost always made of wood.
In concluding this section we would like to mention the chairs used by beauty professionals, so not only beauticians, but also hairdressers and barbers. In these cases we cannot speak of chairs in the strict sense, but rather of chairs with specific features necessary to facilitate the work. For example, they can have a particular inclination when they are used to make a shampoo or make-up, a raised footrest if used for pedicure and so on depending on the need to satisfy.
CHAIRS AND BACK ache, A LONG STORY
We would now like to dwell briefly on comfort and ergonomics, two important criteria for choosing chairs, valid mainly for office chairs, but more generally for all areas of the home. Designers often discuss conflicting ideas about the fact that a nice chair should also be comfortable. For some, the chair, like other elements of the furniture must favor the lines of the drawing, for others there can be no design lacking in functionality, like saying that the chairs are used to sit and if they cause back pain they are poorly designed.
Many people, especially those who work from home, carefully choose the chair for their office. Spending many hours in front of the PC screen can cause stiff neck and back pain, so today on the net it is possible to find ergonomic armchairs ready for any kind of use, from the most accessible and economical to the most technological and expensive, up to ergonomic seats that work like complete workstations, equipped with servo-assisted arms and support surfaces. These armchairs cost a few thousand euros and allow you to work in absolute relax, even lying down or comfortably seated, following the natural movements of your back and guaranteeing a perfect posture.
A nice content “guide”, which explains everything about ergonomic armchairs and at the same time tells about different experiences of use, is published on the Nerdgranny website by Simone Righini, a web marketing consultant who has developed an interesting business on ergonomic chairs starting from a concrete postural problem. He started from two things, the knowledge of the web and the need to solve his back pain, obtaining as a result a guide that offers support for different types of professionals, from those who work in telework at all levels, to those who also look for comfortable office armchairs, to the point of talking about the back problems to which athletes are subjected, such as those who do rowing, boxing or martial arts, sports that greatly stimulate the muscles of the trunk.
The ergonomic chairs often have no backrest, but have two leg supports that force the back to stand upright. These chairs can be comfortable, but not for a long time, since there is no support for the back. They represent a good therapy, especially for those at the same time doing specific postural or workout exercises to restore tone or correct defects in the spine.
They are indeed the problems of scoliosis, but above all of kyphosis and lordosis to cause back pain more frequently. These problems can be solved or at least kept under control, above all at a young age, avoiding for too long a bad posture and practicing sporting activities such as swimming, which in addition to developing all the muscles in a uniform way, does not produce resentments at bone and articulatory level.
STRUCTURAL FEATURES OF THE CHAIRS
So far we have had the opportunity to make some small passages on the features that a chair can have from a structural point of view. Now let’s try to look further into this aspect.
Let’s start with the production material. This is different, for example, depending on the intended use of the chair.
If it was to be outside, let’s imagine in front of a bar or in a private garden, it would be better if the choice fell on aluminum, rattan or plastic, trying anyway to exclude wood from the choice. Obviously the indications cannot be too rigid since in the evaluations of the purchaser other factors also take into account next to the probability of usury. For example, if you have a rustic house, with a veranda completely made of wood, and a little time to devote to annual maintenance, you will certainly not be able to choose your own solid wood chairs, contrary to what some lines suggest. Our advice is to focus in this case on quality and comfort, so that you can sit relaxed after the annoying maintenance jobs, which take time, cause back pain but once finished they also give great satisfaction.
In schools, auditoriums and universities, however, the chairs are almost always made of laminated wood, less nice but more practical and economical than the massive one.
Among the plastics a great classic are the PVC chairs. You have used them dozens and dozens of times by participating in summer events such as village festivals, outdoor cinemas, festivals and similar events.
Then there are materials that by their very nature are closely related to the style of furniture and the comfort of the seat, so let’s think about fabric and leather (or eco-leather). Usually they are preferred for upholstered seats, as in the case of armchairs and sofas, or for specific types of furniture (for example, leather chairs are the most popular in modern style homes).
In addition to the materials, there are many other features that can be found in the structure of a chair, each of which can have specific functions and serves to make each product absolutely unique.
Let’s examine the armrests. To begin with these may or may not be, not all chairs have them. If they are chairs for the kitchen or those that go next to the living room table, they will most likely lack them, since the armrests improve comfort, but at the same time increase the volume, occupying more space and reducing the places available for the diners.
Conversely they are practically indispensable for work chairs, office chairs or small armchairs, in general for all those chairs that, due to intensive use, can generate back pain and postural problems. Yet; the armrests can be “full”, as in this Linda model, or with easy grip (empty) as in the Net model.
Sometimes the armrest can be single and connected to a support, like a small writing table.
The seat certainly cannot be missed, and its variants are even more numerous than those seen for the armrests.
The chair can, for example, have a classic or upholstered seat, it can be tilting to help those who find it difficult to get up easily, can provide a cushion (either separate or fixed to the seat itself); moreover both (cushion and seat) can be removed to allow a comfortable washing in the presence of stubborn dirt.
The seat is nothing other than the beginning, or the continuation depending on the points of view, of the backrest. Indeed these two parts of the chair can be joined or separated by a small void, in this second hypothesis they are “communicating” through the arms that act as a bridge.
Even the backrest can have a cushion (fixed or loose) and both can be removable. The height of the backrest depends very much on the type of chair. For example, in ergonomic chairs it is high enough so that you can rest your whole back, while in the chairs for the kitchen or living room the high backrest, in vogue until a few decades ago, has been largely overcome and replaced by the lower one. Furthermore, for those suffering from back pain but without an ergonomic chair, an ergonomic back and lumbar cushion can be added to the backrest.
In some models, as in this Diva, a grip handle is inserted; in others, the backrest is completely empty, if the perimeter structure is excluded, or worked with particular textures. To make the idea better we want to show you the Miss You models by Pedrali and Spider by Bontempi.
Finally, the backrest can be reclining, especially in office and relax chairs. As we have already seen, ergonomic office chairs are often also equipped with a headrest and are adjustable in height, all features that, like the ergonomic pillow just mentioned, are used to avoid back pain.
Together with the armrests, the seat and the backrest, the supporting structure of a chair requires legs, or more generally a base. We wanted to clarify the basic concept precisely because not all chairs have the typical four legs as in origin. The variants are many and very imaginative in shape and style.
Cantilever chairs, like Esta model, are an example. The particular suspension and the absence of rear legs have made it an icon, so appreciated that it is made by all the main world producers.
The feet then do not necessarily have to be four, some chairs have only three feet that start from a central point under the seat or from three distinct points (usually two in front and one behind, in the center).
There are tilting chairs, with two curved axes at the base to allow a rocking system.
The central support base can be terminated in various ways on the floor. We have just said that sometimes there are only three feet, other times they can be more than four and form a star. The star base is quite common for office chairs with castors fixed under each of the feet.
In bar stools, on the other hand, the central support base ends with a single round base and provides for the presence of a footrest, very convenient given the height. Here is an example in the Discovery model.
Finally, the sled base provides a connection at the bottom between the front and rear legs that are on the same side, so as to reproduce the appearance of a sled. To these indispensable structural features we can add another equally widespread one, that is the one that makes the folding chair, like this Zeta model by Pezzani.
There are also some unique features of some models that are worth mentioning, so let’s remember the demountable chairs, the flexible chairs, those with a monocoque or modular structure, the chairs that can be placed on the table, those upholstered on the frame, the swivel or pull-out chairs that become bed; although, to be fair, the latter can be more easily classified among the armchairs than among chairs. Just as the chairs with integrated leg rest are very similar to armchairs, to relax and enjoy a few hours of rest in front of the TV.
Finally, we can’t forget about the stackable chairs, perfect for storing in emergency situations, unexpected guests or a big party.
The style of a chair,
like that of other furniture, can be very varied and respond to subjective
preferences. What matters is the absence of an excessive dissonance, of a too
marked contrast between the chairs and the rest of the furniture present in the
environment in which they must be positioned. It is equally important to keep
in mind that, in certain cases, style can and must be renounced to privilege
For example, if you have specific health problems, such as scoliosis, kyphosis, hernias, chronic back pain, lordosis, leave the aesthetics behind and focus on “bad but useful” ergonomic chairs. We are sure that your body will thank you, your back pain will ease or disappear along with all the other problems, and you will join the club of those who think it is more important being than appearing.
After this brief parenthesis it is important to clarify that there are no specific styles for chairs, but they roughly reproduce the alternatives available for furnishings in general.
So here we can talk about classic style for those chairs with a slightly retro look, inspired by the preferences and values of tradition and strictly made of wood. The seat, on the other hand, can also be padded or covered in fabric or leather. These chairs have a durable structure and are also quite heavy, since they are not made with poor woods or wood compounds, but for the production we choose a solid wood with dark brown colours. The classic style is still highly appreciated, but it must be said that the young couples who want to furnish the new house are increasingly oriented towards the modern style. In this case we are talking about simple furniture, with a clean design and very bright colours (often they are lacquered or polished surfaces), which still manage to give a very particular design to all environments.
The materials used for the production of modern style chairs are different: they can vary from metal (in particular stainless steel) and eco-leather such as for this model by Italian Design, to the lacquered / chromed steel combined with a polypropylene seat of Bontempi Shark model. Plastics, as a whole, are really appreciated when it comes to modern style, but the importance of wood should not be underestimated, especially when combined with other materials in a way that is not exactly conventional. This solid wood model covered in eco-leather gives a good idea.
With simple and defined lines as those of modern furniture to which it belongs, it is a very particular style, which has become common in recent years, a period in which globalization and the symbiosis between very distant cultures spread strongly.
We are talking about Scandinavian design. The chairs built with this design have a particularity especially in the colours. Scandinavian people, indeed, prefer total white for their furniture, which is essential to give light to environments that are not very well lit by the sun during long periods of the year. A typical variation of total white is black and white, or the alternation of the predominant white with the black of the finishes and accessories. A choice that rewards elegance as well as simplicity.
Scandinavian peoples are very attentive not only to colours, but also to other details: such as comfort, avoiding seats that can give rise to back pain and other physical problems, the total well-being of the individual. They do all this because statistics have shown that the combination of adverse climate and absence of light generates a large number of suicides due to depression every year.
Always referable to the more general sector of modern furnishing are:
- Bauhaus style, with simple geometric shapes. A “clean” style that, founded by Walter Gropius in the 20s of the twentieth century, set the ambitious goal of introducing art and creativity into industrial production.
- Organic design. The works created following this design are directly inspired by the natural elements. In particular, each object must be an organic creation similar to those that can be found in nature, not a mere industrial assembly of several parts. In respect of these principles we can therefore think of the function that the object (in our case the chair) must have.
- Minimalist design. As it is easy to guess from the name it is a really sober style, made of open spaces, soft colours, absence of any kind of excess (for example no inlays or particular decorations). All to achieve a tidy and practical environment.
- A slight reference to minimalist design is also made by the industrial style, in which the shapes continue to be simple and linear, while the objects take on a metropolitan air with strong metallic reflections.
Then there are other
types of furniture that have nothing to do with the modern one nor with the
classic one, but which have specific peculiarities and are distinguished by
some features. Needless to underline how all the specificities we are
analyzing, both as regards to the classic and modern style, and for those that
we are going to see now, have repercussions and reoccur also in the production of
- Art Decò. The furnishings inspired by this style have fine decorations with floral motifs and seek to enhance the wood tones with chrome or lacquer finishes, embellished with inlays of all kinds.
- Directory Style. It is particularly suitable for decorating public places such as offices and restaurants. The lines are inlaid but have no decorations to weigh them down, which guarantees a touch of sobriety. The Directory Style recalls Louis XVI, which we will see shortly, but is less elegant.
- Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century the style defined as Art Nouveau spread, whose main features are the stylized and geometric or floral motifs, always with sinuous lines. The Art Nouveau chairs are the perfect synthesis of these particularities because they have curved and sinuous legs and the back is almost always high, at the top of which you can find a medallion carved with floral motifs.
- Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. We have chosen to combine the styles attributable to these three French emperors in order to better identify and appreciate the differences and similarities between them.
Louis XIV chairs and armchairs have an imposing back, curved armrests, they are padded and the feet often depict a lion’s paw.
In Louis XV furnishings the most important structural variations concern a lowering of the backrest and a furnishing of the armrests, in line with the needs of the time, that is to facilitate the seat for those who wore very large robes and voluminous wigs. The shapes of these chairs are still sinuous and the materials used are almost always woods available in France, such as oak, walnut, beech and lime.
During the reign of Louis XVI chairs became more elegant and light but lost all the comfort that was sought in the previous style. The backs are geometric (rectangular or square), while the legs, straight and tapered, rest on a spherical end part.
- Biedermeier Style. Chairs in this style have a solid structure with geometric shapes, they also stand out for the comfort of the seat and a fancy decorated backrest.
- Napoleonic III Style. Typical of this style are the vaguely oriental-inspired chairs, sometimes made of wicker, with a low and enveloping design. Both the chairs and the armchairs are very padded.
- Louis Philippe Style. Also in this case, the seat (which can be rectangular or semicircle) and the armrests are well padded. The backrest has a slightly curved shape that is defined en gondole, as well as curves are the front legs, while the rear legs are saber-like. It seems to present, absurdly, the primordial characteristics of modern ergonomic chairs against back pain.
- Gustavian Style. This style is the predecessor, the inspiration, of the most famous Shabby Chic. It owes its name to King Gustav III of Sweden and was born from the fusion of Neoclassicism and Roccocò. The chairs, as well as the sofas and other furnishing accessories, have a rosette in the upper part and are carved with scallop-shaped decorations.
- Provencal Style. In the Provencal style the shapes are simple and linear, always massive, sometimes they can also be a little rounded. The works in Provencal Style are never modern, but have an antique look halfway between the classic and the rustic. The favorite colours are natural ones, with very soft tones, such as white, lilac or ivory.
There are a large number of chairs that do not fit into the standard types, because they have a particular function, an unconventional form or special features.
Let’s look at some of them and try to understand why we consider them to be particular.
Let’s start with the chair perhaps more sadly famous: the electric chair. Everyone knows the purpose for which it was invented by Thomas Edison, and let’s not forget that today there are still many countries in the world that use it to execute death sentences. In many other cases, however, given the suffering caused to the condemned, it was preferred to replace it with lethal injection. Although they are not part of the stated aims of this guide, we would like to express our total disagreement with the use of this chair and any other instrument of death.
Now let’s move on to a chair with totally different associations, the rocking chair. Its fundamental characteristic is the replacement of the classic legs with two arches that connect the front and the back so as to allow the classic undulatory movement. This chair is perfect for relaxing, resting or reading a good book.
The director’s chair has crossed legs to form an “X”, the folding stem, the removable back and seat. Very famous, very inflated to depict the director intent on starting a scene with the classic “Ciak, si gira!” In all theatrical and cinematographic performances.
Faldistorio finds its origin in the German term Faltstuhl, or “folded chair”. Indeed Faldistorio has a cross shape that allows it to be easily folded. It was used by the bishops and covered by the liturgical colour of the day. Its use has become rather rare in the years following the Liturgical Reform.
Perhaps one of the oldest folding chairs is tripolina. Its first public appearance dates back to 1904 and it is not exactly known who the inventor was. What is certain is its being a source of inspiration for all the folding chairs that were created after its appearance. Tripolina was used, in the years of its commercialization, by the English troops as a support during the battles of the nineteenth century. In those moments the soldiers needed a simple support point, even not very comfortable, because they had other problems than the back pain to think about.
Previously we have already made some reference to the pouf, but we have not specified that there are some models with a compartment under the seat to form a small drawer for objects. In addition to the poufs there are also chairs with drawers, which have the same characteristic.
Wassily chair was revolutionary in its own way, especially in the production methods and materials used (specifically eisengarn and nickel-plated steel tubes). It is also known as the Model B3 chair and was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925.
The appearance of orchestra chairs seems to have no peculiarity, they look like very common chairs with backrest and seat covered in fabric. What distinguishes them, on the other hand, is the fact that the backrest and the seat can be adjusted to your liking both in height and through a horizontal sliding mechanism; this to allow the orchestras to be at ease in the moment of the performance and not to have problems of back pain during the concert, that go to affect the performance.
Hanging chairs are very special. They are often attached to trees in the garden or under the ceiling of a porch. Some models also have a base from which the metal tube to which the chair hangs starts. They vaguely look like bird cages due to the completely closed structure on both sides and shoulders. They are particularly scenic and adored by children who can swing in them.
Luminous chairs have strips of LEDs positioned inside which, when lit, give a very special optical effect. The play of lights is ideal for those who want to place them in a public place or in a private garden with modern furnishings. The semi-transparent structure must be made of plastic or glass to allow light to pass through.
An interesting set of chairs with a specific function, purely medical, is the one that includes bariatric chairs and phlebotomy chairs.
The former are generally intended for people with severe disabilities and very pronounced motor difficulties. In most cases they are equipped with 4 or more rollers, armrests, footrests and hygienic opening.
Phlebotomy chairs, on the other hand, are provided with one or two rubber armrests, both on the right and on the left side, since they serve to facilitate the patient’s posture at the time of a blood test or during the administration of an IV.
We want to dedicate a brief paragraph, in conclusion of this full-bodied journey into the world of chairs, to those that have ecological characteristics. In particular, these models are built with an eye to environmental issues, using recycled materials and choosing wood that comes from certified forests.