Evolution Final.jpg

The evolution of HON’s Ignition seating line

History hasn’t been revealing in who invented the first chair, but it was likely back in the Neolithic Period. Stone tools allowed our ancestors to take some of the first steps towards developing furniture by chiseling away a bench out of a larger rock.

Chair Blog 1

A modern interpretation of the klismos chair. Photo credit: 1stdibs.com.

Around the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, chairs were status symbols. Common folk sat on stools while those of royalty or elite status sat in chairs with backs and arms. From the inception of the words chair and throne, there has seemingly been a difference. Chair can be traced back to the Greeks and means ‘to sit down’, whereas throne comes from an Indo-European base for ‘hold’ or ‘support’ (Jewell & Abate, 2001). As has been interpreted, the discrepancy in the two meanings shows how chairs are for anyone to sit in while the throne supported the elite.

In the 5th century B.C., the Greeks invented one of the most depicted chairs in all of antiquity, the klismos chair. The light-weight chair with curved legs is seen on many painted pieces of pottery, stone carvings, and other artworks. While elegant, without further structural support the legs can spread apart and eventually crack or break when someone sits down on the seat (Crantz, 1998).

Chair Blog 2

The throne of King Louis XIV of France. Public domain.

After a period of relative stagnation, chairs and thrones resumed their larger role in society in the Renaissance. They became refined, highly decorated, and comfortable. These places to sit became pieces of art, adorned with gold, silver, and precious stones (de Dampierre, 2006). Different types of chairs were starting to be widely used. Those who could afford them now had separate dining chairs, side chairs, armchairs, and other specific-use seating.

Today, as our lives become less about threshing and more about checking email, there are seating styles that are more practical and ergonomic for our hours in front of a computer. The classic task chairs are now designed to be comfortable and adjustable in a multitude of ways. There are different options for perching, for learning, and sitting at conference tables.

Chair Blog 3

The HON Ignition 2.0 task chair is an example of 21st century functionality. It provides a breathable mesh back, adjustable arms, lumbar support, and a synchronized tilt that allows the user to adjust the chair to meet his or her needs.

The rest of this post is a quote from Witold Rybczynski, the author of Now I Sit Me Down. It shows how a difference in seating habits can result in a wide variety of cultural norms.

“If you sit on floor mats, you are likely to develop an etiquette that requires removing footwear before entering the home. You are also more likely to wear sandals or slippers rather than laced-up shoes, and loose clothing that enables you to squat or sit cross-legged. Floor-sitters tend not to use tall wardrobes—it is more convenient to store things in chests and low cabinets closer to floor level. People who sit on mats are more likely to sleep on mats, too, just as chair-sitters are more likely to sleep in beds. Chair-sitting societies develop a variety of furniture such as dining tables, dressing tables, coffee tables, desks, and sideboards. Sitting on the floor also affects architecture: walking around the house in bare feet or socks demands smooth floors—no splinters—preferably warm wood rather than stone; places to sit are likely to be covered with soft mats or woven carpets; tall windowsills and very tall ceilings hold less appeal. Lastly, posture has direct physical effects. A lifetime of sitting unsupported on the floor develops muscles not required for chair-sitting, which is why chair-sitters, unaccustomed to sitting cross-legged, soon become uncomfortable in that position. And vice versa.” 

As you can see, humans have had a long history with the chair. From chiseled benches and wood-carved stools to task seating with ergonomic designs, we have come a long way.

Make sure that you aren’t left in the stone age and check out the new HON seating options at hon.com.

References

Crantz, G. (1998). The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

de Dampierre, F. (2006). Chairs: A History. New York: Abrams.

Friedman, U. (2016, August 30). A Global History of Sitting Down. Retrieved from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/08/chairs-history-witold-rybczynski/497657/

Jewell, E. J., & Abate, F. (2001). The New Oxford American Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rybczynski, W. (2016). Now I sit me down: from klismos to plastic chair: a natural history. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 

Advertisements