Nestled on a bookcase in my home, between Dickens, Homer and Keats, is a title that I have long cherished. Its name, 1000 Chairs, is simple and to the point. Its purpose – to survey chair design from 1808 to the present day – is equally so. Yet every one of the 1,000 examples that the authors Charlotte and Peter Fiell explore represents much more than everyday design.
A chair can be many things to many people. It is a place to curl up with a good book, a spot at the family table where plates are piled with food, or a means of recline when in need of rest. It can be a maker of memories. Designer Faye Toogood recalls how she nursed her children in her favourite Wassily chair, Marcel Breuer’s icon of the Bauhaus, and how later her brood had spent many happy hours turning it into a secret den. She has no desire to restore it to its original state; every scuff and dent meant something to her.
A chair can represent a moment in time, in art and in culture: a midcentury modernist vision or a surrealist’s subversive work of art. It can epitomise an entire oeuvre of a creator – Eames, Le Corbusier, Mackintosh – that one only knows by their name. As the forward in my well-thumbed book concludes, the chair represents connections: the physical and psychological, the emotional and the aesthetic. Here are six new designs to add to your collection.
Stellar Works’ Kite chair and Blend stool by Nendo
Furniture brand Stellar Works’ first collaboration with Nendo, Oki Sato’s Japanese design studio, has produced two noteworthy chairs. The Kite armchair is a chameleon-like design with separate elements that can be combined in different ways to create various chair styles. The seat, for instance, which slots onto the backrest, can be shallow or deep, and teamed with lower or taller backs.
The Blend bar stool is striking in its simplicity, the legs angled in such a way that one appears to “disappear” beneath the seat. Nendo has created five variations of the design – each subtly altering the look of the piece. Kite high-back chair, from £1,350; Blend stool, £318. nendo.jp; stellarworks.com
Poltrona Frau’s Martha armchair by Roberto Lazzeroni
Designer Roberto Lazzeroni has updated his Martha chair with a playful rocking version of the design. Originally conceived for elevated comfort, the key elements of the chair have not changed: its padded backrest (supported by a hidden mechanism) appears to float above the base, while the seat and armrests below it form one piece encased in a stitched saddle-leather shell. The new rocking base is crafted in solid ash. POA; poltronafrau.com
Porro’s Romby chair by GamFratesi
The genesis of the Romby chair is the rhombus, a simple geometric shape given three-dimensional form by design studio GamFratesi. “We worked with modelling and 3D-drawings, as it was very important to have the original shape of the rhombus visible in the piece,” say Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi, designer-architects who draw on both Danish and Italian influences. The result of their experimentation is an upholstered dining chair perched on a swivel conical-shaped base in natural or black stained solid ash – the look changing dramatically depending on the colour of the upholstery that is paired with the base. “It is a dining chair, but we see the piece being used in different spaces in the house,” the designers say. POA; porro.com
Vitra’s Citizen chair by Konstantin Grcic
The German industrial designer has suspended the seat of his contemporary lounge chair on three cables attached to a slender frame, which enables it to swing in all directions. The fixed backrest is ergonomically shaped to the upper body, preventing the sitter from slouching. He has created both high- and low-back versions of the chairs, with upholstery covers that can be chosen in different fabrics. From £2,360; vitra.com
Porada’s Evelin chair by C Ballabio
The Evelin chair references the Nordic designs of the 1950s. Its sinuous form and slightly curved legs in solid ash reveal the work of a woodcrafter, and the back can be covered in fabric or leather to match the upholstery of the seat. It is made in versions with or without arms. From £1,137; porada.it