Most of us see it as an everyday object, but to a designer the humble chair is an item of endless possibility. Chairs have changed the way we sit, the way we live, and have even been involved in scandals. Here are some of our favourite chairs that changed the world.
No-one quite knows who designed the first rocking chair (rumour has it that it was serial inventor Benjamin Franklin, but it’s highly unlikely as there’s evidence of them existing before he was born), but one of the first recorded is a bentwood model designed by Austrian Michael Thonet in 1886. The chair was a sensation and a bestseller, and really kick started the rocking chair trend. The classic, graceful design was a cornerstone.
The Wiggle Chair
Frank Gehry is best known for his twisted building designs, most famously the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, but he also designed some revolutionary furniture in his spare time. The Wiggle Chair’s design is unmistakeably Gehry, but its revolutionary flair comes from what it was made of. Designed in 1972, it was one of the first pieces of furniture to be made out of entirely recycled materials. Gehry developed a material called ‘edge board’ which was strong and versatile, and could be manipulated into lots of funky designs.
“Le Fauteuil Grand Confort” Armchair
Le Corbusier’s robust steel frame armchair became a cornerstone of modernist chair design. Designed in 1928, the chair is still hugely popular today and featured on a Swiss stamp that was part of a collection showing off classic Swiss design in 2002. If you’re not a stamp collector and the chair still looks familiar to you, it was also the chair used by Steve jobs when he introduced the iPad to the world.
Eero Saarinen is the man behind many innovative and fluid chair designs, but none caught on quite like the tulip. Originally designed for a New York office, the space age, curvy design of the chair was soon picked up and started a psychedelic design revolution in the 60s. Ten years after the chair was designed, it was picked up by television producers to feature on the original Star Trek TV series and were scattered throughout the ‘bridge’ on the USS Enterprise.
Arne Jacobsen’s Model 3107 was already innovative because of its simple, stackable design, but it became notorious when a portrait of Christine Keeler, the woman at the centre of the Profumo Affair, was released of her posing provocatively on the chair. Sales rocketed and the image became pop culture shorthand for the scandalous, seductive pose. It has since been used by The Spice Girls, Amanda Holden and Sinnita for various magazines and pop videos.