Too Many Chairs

Having worked in the design industry for 19 years, I have been to my share of design festivals: big ones, bespoke ones, industry-led or student-led.  And in each design festival, somebody brings along a new design for a chair. 

You would think that, with legs, a seat and a back, you would run out of ideas, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. And each time I attend a design festival and see one of these redesigns, I think to myself: why do we, as designers, do this to the humble simplicity of the chair?

This has led me to one conclusion: there are just too many chairs for us to sit on.

 At Forster Inc, we love simplicity and good quality design, and with that in mind, the one chair design that stands out from the rest is the Thonet No. 14.

Image via Treehugger

Designed by Austrian-German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet in the 19th century, this simple chair is considered a design classic; even famous architect Le Corbusier declared that “Never was a better and more elegant design and a more precisely crafted and practical item created.”  You may recognise it as the “bistro chair,” an iconic symbol of the many bistros adorning the streets of Paris.

This has led me to one conclusion: there are just too many chairs for us to sit on.

More interestingly, it is actually a piece of flat-pack furniture, the first of its kind to be mass-produced. Made of bentwood – or steam-bending technology – it breaks down into six parts (now eight), fitting precisely into a one cubic meter case. This helped to bring down the cost for a consumer, and along with its easy assembly, it made furniture more accessible to everyone.

Now many years and bistro tables later, it is considered one of the best-selling chairs ever created.

Why do I love this chair so much? On a personal level, it reminds me of my three years living in Paris.  On a design level, I appreciate the fact that it may be flat-packed furniture, but it’s also design. It’s well-crafted, classic furniture iconography, lightweight and comfortable, reminding me why Forster Inc firmly believes that good design should not only look good, but it needs to work, too.

What do you think about the No. 14 chair? Do you agree that there are just too many chair designs?