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Industry & Trends

Here Are the Seven Chairs That Changed the World

Noted design writer Witold Rybczynski looks at the most important chairs in the history of seating. Spoiler alert: six of them are made of wood.

It may not be the most chart topping ranking out there but to those who make and sell them—not to mention the people and companies that supply the raw materials used in the process—a ranking of the “Seven Chairs That Changed the World” has to be of great interest.

It’s the premise of a book called “Now I Sit Me Down” that noted home furnishings scholar, architect and author Witold Rybczynski set out to write a little while back and that continues to have great relevance for those in the business. Amazon calls it “a grand tour…through the ages,” chronicling the history of the chair, from ancient Egypt all the way to today’s stackable utilitarian models, with stops along the way at Charles and Ray Eames, the Bauhaus and the ubiquitous Barcalounger.

Here’s how he ranks them:

1. Klismos Chair, from fifth century B.C. Greece has been often imitated, right through to Michael Graves for JCPenney.

Image By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007), CC BY 2.5

2. Windsor Chair, combining simplicity, lightness and comfort, all of which made it good enough for George Washington.

Image By Daderot – Own work, CC0

3. Fauteuil à la Reine, from 18th century France and “padded in all the right places.”

Image By Tangopaso – Self-photographed, Public Domain

4. No. 14 Bentwood Café Chair, the first truly mass produced chair, courtesy of Michael Thonet.

By Henry Townsend – Chair owned by Henry Townsend, FAL

5. Cesca Chair, one of many memorable Bauhaus contributions to furniture, this one from Marcel Breuer.

Image By Holger.Ellgaard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Round Chair, from Danish modern designer Hans Wegner with its signature caned seat.

Image By Nasjonalmuseet/Larsen, Frode, CC BY 4.0

7. The Monobloc Plastic Chair, the outlier to wooden chairs, it is injection-molded one-piece polypropylene.

Image By Seniju, CC BY 2.0

All of which brings to mind a quote Amazon cites in its book review from furniture designer Wegner: “A chair is only finished when someone sits on it.”

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