The Friday Fillip

Take a seat.

Not just any seat, of course. One that suits your needs and, well, that part of you. Ever since human beings discovered that they could bend in the middle, proper seating has been a matter of considerable importance. If you happen to be a court, sittings are even more significant, but that’s a whole nother business, as they say. This is about plain old citizenry sitting and, more precisely, the chairs that enable it.

Those of you who work at firms likely have ergonomically correct (or at least adjustable, so the instructions promise) chairs, like the Aeron, that wildly popular apotheosis of posterior props. Some would say it’s perfection in chair design. It evidently merits it’s own Wikipedia page and a place in MOMA’s permanent collection.

But my pick for the perfect chair — for the best combination of form and function — is a chair designed nearly 150 years ago. The Thonet Model No.14 (a.k.a. Vienna cafe chair) hit the market in 1859 and has never looked back. As the fascinating International Herald Tribune story points out, the chair consists of ten screws, two nuts and six pieces of wood (two circles, two sticks and a couple of arches). Then, it cost about the price of a bottle of wine. Now, a licensed reproduction will run you just under $500. Though you can still see knockoffs of this beautiful, sturdy and light piece of furniture pretty much everywhere, including Ikea (albeit in resin). You can also find contemporary interpretations of it, for example those done by Tomás Alonso or by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.

I understand that for all this chair’s grace and efficiency, fin de siècle Wien might not be your idea of good design, or even good taste. In that case, you might take a look at the nextmaruni chair museum, an online gallery of seats of a more modern bent. There’s sure to be something there to match your… aesthetic.


  1. I’ve often thought chairs should come with a rating – how many hours one can comfortably sit on it. Or perhaps that secretly exists – ie restaurants buy 1.5 hour rated chairs so their patrons leave after they are finished eating.