The History of the Chair

January 8, 2018

For many of us in the modern world, chairs have become much maligned for restricting our movement in an office environment, or paired with the oft-smeared television as the reason for our ‘lazy’ society.

However, their invention and subsequent use by almost all civilisations over the last 5,000 or so years, makes the chair one of the most important functional pieces of furniture ever created. The first identifiable chair in recorded history is a sculpture found on an island in the Aegean Sea, reputedly showing a musician sitting on an archetypal ‘kitchen’ chair, complete with four legs and a straight backrest.

However, the Egyptians were the first discernible civilisation to use chairs frequently, where they were reserved for royalty or people of standing, while others sat on the ground. The Greeks were the next civilisation to establish a wider variety of chairs, including the klismos design, which is essentially a chair with curved legs and a curved backrest. Greeks from all levels of
societal standing used chairs frequently.

During the Middle Ages, chairs once again reverted back to a hierarchical piece of furniture, with those at the top of society’s ladder allowed to perch on these pieces of furniture, while others would stand or use the ground to sit.

By the 18th century, chairs were at their design peak, with a number of creations covered in ornate patterns, which would again signify the wealth and social status of the owner. Even as late as the 1960’s, office chairs would differ depending on the position in the company of the ‘sitter’. A relatable reference would be the ‘Mad-Men’ style, leather chairs that were given to the CEO’s and General Managers of large corporations, compared to the stool-like equivalents of the lowest rung of employees.

However, this all changed in 1963, when a designer by the name of Robin Day was tasked with creating a chair that could be mass produced and was affordable, while still remaining comfortable and durable.

The creation that Robin Day presented to the manufacturer S. Hille & Co. was the Polypropylene Stacking Chair.

These early models of stacking chair, which can still be found in schools, canteens and more today, were made with polypropylene, which is a lightweight plastic with solid resistance.
Almost immediately, these chairs became exceedingly popular in a number of industries and organisations, as their ability to save space and money, combined with their durability and versatility were incomparable.

Originally only available in two colours and made only from Polypropylene, the stacking chair has evolved and is now available in a number of materials and designs, increasing their comfort and their use in professional settings.

There are even different sizes of stacking chair in today’s market, including the Series E stacking chair, which is made exclusively for children. These are a very popular type of chair for schools and hospitals catering for young children.

The stacking chair is still one of the most popular chair designs in the world today and are used in over 40 countries in the world.