Discover more from FOR SCALE
"CHAIR EXTREMISM" is good
And, here's how to excel at it
IN THIS ISSUE:
A new moment in CHAIRS: the either/or of EXTREME COMFORT v EXTREME DISCOMFORT, and why that’s actually great for us
HOW-TO: categories of comfort and discomfort in chairs that will help you make decisions about your preferred approach
Many examples, points and counterpoints
Please, if you’d be so kind:
We do this newsletter out of love, and telling your friends you like this sh*t is great validation.
Have you noticed? There’s something happening around THE CHAIR. And, those who must endure life in the ‘Design World’ are surely exhausted by the mere mention of “the chair” – so f*cking often is it the subject of some kind of lazy-bones exhibition.
BUT, give us a chance to explain, as A MOMENT HAS ARRIVED.
A FOUR-LEGGED BATTLE CRY
Here in the United States, A CULTURE WAR IS UPON US. Broadly speaking this is deeply, deeply troubling. In the chairsphere, however, it’s fun.
It is the battle between EXTREME COMFORT and EXTREME DISCOMFORT. The former a salve for a painful world, the latter a reflection of it – both an important expression of a pre-apocalyptic willingness to “Try anything” and to try it hard.
We’re going to attempt here, to show you how to approach both/either.
N.B. As per, we will be exclusively expressing this new tendency with OLD THINGS.
TO REITERATE: Chair tastes are in the midst of polarizing – and this, as we know from p*litics, opens the door to extremism. Political extremism is the worst, Chair extremism is great. And, this is exposed in the DISCOMFORT-COMFORT WARS.
THE EVIDENCE: Just trust us. *But if you must, surface investigation will show you we have lots of crazy discomfort like this (below left) and lots of cocoon-like mega-comfort like this (below right) – AND WE LOVE THEM BOTH!
The benefits of “CHAIR EXTREMISM”
Whether you seek EXCESSIVE PLEASURE or PAIN, there are two essential benefits of pulling your Chairdom out of ‘Regular’:
Both extremes are a suitable trauma response, décor-wise; neutral seating is emotional repression
Let visitors get to you know quickly through highly directional choices
WHERE DID WE COME FROM?: THE "NEITHER/NOR"”
Representative of the last era is the still-enjoyable PHILIPPE STARCK “LAZY WORKING SOFA”, 1998.
This was on the cusp of a Gap khaki era, and the peak beige-ness of American life (including the rise of vapid pop music, which we adore). Starck’s version of “working” in this context is really illustrative of, like, how different these times were and how furniture was/is totally a manifestation of those times:
“Lazy Working Sofa,” says STARCK, “in other words, sofas for lazy work - there's nothing better than napping, daydreaming, really working."
Complacency was chic, and we fit out our homes in lots of white slip covers in a mimicry of our own blankness.
This aesthetic now belongs to suburban TikTok influencers.
HOW TO #1: EXTREME COMFORT
There are two categories of Extreme Comfort to discuss: ERGONOMIC and FLUFF.
1.1 Ergonomic comfort
Here’s some Italian stuff we think is still super relevant. The rule is, essentially, the more the Ergonomic approximates something you might find in a medical supply catalogue, the better. They need too appear TECHNICAL.
Often these will have multiple “modes”, i.e. ways of using them, and are not about relaxation, idle moments, or whatever.
Herein lies the appeal: they LOOK f*cking rigid and horrible, but are in fact a purpose-made means of comfort.
These look totally ALIEN - and that’s incredible. Doesn’t it kind of show you how divorced we’ve become from the physical needs of our bodies? (… i.e. that a chair designed for the spine looks so OTHERWOLRDLY ODD)
It wasn’t only the Italian’s of course. We also have this from the Norwegians, via PETER OPSVIK:
The official description of this chair opens as follows (emphasis ours):
Experience ultimate relaxation and weightlessness with the Gravity. The design classic supports your back and neck while continuously promoting flow and movement in countless positions.
FURTHER READING, which are very “how the f*ck do you get into this” i.e. they don’t look like chairs, per se:
→ The “MULTICHAIR” by Joe Colombo
→ The “WINK” chair by Toshiyuki Kita
1.2 Fluff comfort
Back with the Italians, may we introduce SACCO (1969), a.k.a. SACK, a.k.a. the only acceptable bean bag chair. (We’re sorry, no others.) The prototype was literally, like, a clear plastic garbage bag with plastic beads in it. IMAGE HERE.
Very high initial pay-off, this category of COMFORT is all about maximizing the “flop” experience and about visual cues of EXTREME COMFORT, i.e. mainly softness.
Here, even a flop-gone-wrong in a LA BOMBOLA chair (1972) still seems appealing:
The name of that chair, for those who aren’t totally fluent in Italian like Google Translate is, means “THE DOLL”. Take from that what you will.
Of course, we could go on about COMFORT. But, we won’t. The takeaway here is just:
Comfort is either in OVER THE TOP STRUCTURE, or NO damn structure AT ALL.
Onto the next!
HOW TO #2: EXTREME DISCOMFORT
There are also two important categories of DISCOMFORT. And those are: TEENY and HARD.
Unlike comfort’s two categories, these ones are not mutually exclusive. There’s a lot that are both - but for the sake of symmetry, we’ll divide ‘em up.
Teeny, in short, offers no support – both real or visual. (You’re out there on your own, baby!)
First example: The year is 1991, well into the NEUTRAL ERA, but still we end up with the experimental CHIP “chair” by probable sadist Carlo Mo. Espresso cup for scale.
Ok, so Carlo Mo was in fact a sculptor, who tried his hand at a chair and came up with this. And, with almost ALL both Teeny and Hard chairs of DISCOMFORT, there’s a real DNA share with ‘sculpture’.
The appeal here is an aesthetic double-duty, i.e. yes, you can sit in it, but likely its more there as a visual and conversation point. (NOBODY will ask you about comfortable chairs; people only inquire about the uncomfortable ones.)
An aside: BORSANI AND HIS VILLA
The Chip was developed by Tecno, a kind of furniture lab where OSVALD BORSANI worked with lots of tippity top tier designers. Borsani lived in Milan, of course, and his house is F*CKING UNBELIEVABLE. A pilgrimage site, really. See here → IMAGES.
In a similarly sculptural act, ROBERT BERNSTEIN, a kind of of suspension-obsessive, asked the question “WHY DOES A CHAIR NEED LEGS AT ALL?”, and the answer was…
The chair without legs isn’t something most of us should expect to have at home – yet, the concept is interesting… it’s subverting the “FLOP” totally. It’s the upsetting notion of “SIT AT YOUR OWN RISK”.
2.2.1 HARD CAN LOOK ORGANIC
Discomfort often finds itself in the UNBEARABLY RIGID. And, we’ll start with EERO AARNIO’s GYRO. (If you remember from pine’s VAARNII brand: all the vowels here tell you that this person was FINNISH.)
At first you might think, “Oh sweet – it’s got that cozy egg thing going on!” But, you quickly learn that it’s basically only pictured with people completely slipping out of it - and that is hilarious.
It’s the same uncomfortable appeal possessed by the TOKYO-POP chaise by Tokujin Yoshioka:
Again, demonstrates that HARD isn’t necessarily angular – it can be organic. And perhaps present an even greater ‘Discomfort’ trick when it does, as you’d expect organic = tailor-made for the human body and how it sits. No.
Another example, for you to look up → ICE BABE by Jean Marie Massaud, which is both organic AND square.
2.2.2 HARD CAN ALSO LOOK HARD
The Gerrit Rietveld RED AND BLUE CHAIR (1923) remains and uncomfortable 'HARD’ classic.
Here it is seen in super famous London design critic DEYAN SUDJIC’s former home, which appears to be designed entirely around DISCOMFORT:
The RED & BLUE’s enduring appeal is that even in strictly black and white environments (like Sudjic’s) it has a kind of a severity that forgives its colorful presence.
The value here is really that kind of Catholic self flagellation thing - the RED & BLUE is a means of penance.
BONUS: 2.3 UNACCEPTABLE DISCOMFORT
As a side note, the one DISCOMFORT we cannot condone is, of course, symbolic discomfort. No more horrid chair than a throne:
We beg: enjoy the extremities of CHAIR. It’s an exceptional way to express or soothe your inner turmoil. And, to send a message to those invited into your home about how to address your emotional needs: by slap or by hug.
UNTIL NEXT WEEK.
Love and good luck,