March 05, 2004
Why I don't build chairs
The dimensions of the 18th-century chair embodied hundreds of years of experimentation. By 1700, chair makers had discovered the proper angle for the back, the perfect height for the seat, and the ideal depth for a cushion that would support the leg without cutting off the flow of blood behind the knee.
The proof is in the pudding: In the name of functionalism, superstar architects and designers like Mies van der Rohe and Charles Eames designed some of the most uncomfortable chairs in the history of the world. They were less interested in comfort than the expression of modern materials and industrial processes.
He is right on about this.
One of the reasons I don't build chairs (only some benches) is that novel design simply isn't enough. Proportion and functionality are, in my own experience, much more easily incorporated into novel design, in casework, for example, than in chairs.
One of my favorite chair makers is, not surprisingly, Sam Maloof. I have never had the pleasure of sitting in one of his chairs, but I would be very surprised if they were not as comfortable as they are beautiful.