Top 10 Iconic Chairs of History
More than just a place to “park your carcass”; chairs are some of the most used social tools of the human race.
When we ask someone to “pull up a chair”, we create a sense of invitation.
When we ask someone to “take a seat”, a tense conversation may soon ensue.
No matter the occasion, the chair has been constant throughout human civilisation, supporting us figuratively (and literally) through our cultural advancements and communal interactions.
Here are some key examples of chairs that have shaped history as we know it.
The Egyptian Chair
Image Courtesy of the British Museum
Perhaps the mother of all chairs, the Egyptians moved from a floor seated lifestyle to using simple four-legged chairs decorated with cushions and carved imagery.
However, these were only used by the heads of homes and the affluent, exhibiting social stature and prominence in the community, rather than purely for comfort sake.
Original pieces were found in burial tombs of high-ranking officials, while chairs with arms rests were reserved for royalty – Yet another reason to fight for them on airplanes.
Image courtesy of Loveday Antiques
Also known as the Savanarola or Dante chair, this item is theorised to be named as such due to the cross-like shape the arms and legs (both Savanarola and Dante being religious icons of their time).
The chair was used by monks, common folk and aristocracy alike.
However this design was based on the Roman “Curule” chair which bore a similar shape, nearly a thousand years prior; this was common practice during the renaissance due to an appreciation of antiquities and a resurgence of ancient designs. It’s a great physical ‘snapshot’ of Italy’s artistic practices of the time.
Louis XVI Chair
Image courtesy of Neiman Marcus
Though he was more so known for his marriage to Marie Antoinette rather than his furniture, the Louis XVI chair screams French decadence.
Perhaps just as loud as the cries of “Liberte, Egalite, fraternite!” in contrast during the revolution; where the common folk protested against the luxury, opulence and greed of the monarchy.
With its gilded armrests and embroidered cushioning, this design is a pertinent reminder of the heights of French aristocracy juxtaposed with the power of the proletariat to effect change against tyranny.
Bet no one ever thinks of that when they sit on a chair.
Image courtesy of Auction France
While this item just looks like a regular chair, its social significance created a standard that effected change for women the world over.
The name comes from the French word “to chat”, with this chair originally being used in social rooms such as the living room or parlor.
In Baroque Europe, women’s fashion was often heavily layered to keep the wearer warm, making it extremely difficult for them to ordinarily sit in a standard chair.
The Caquetoire was designed with wider and rounder arm rests to facilitate space for women to comfortably sit with their dresses uncompromised; a great response to facilitating an arena for women to take part in social dialogue with men who also used the chairs. Feminists rejoice.
The Bath Chair
Image courtesy of Classic Cars Brightwell
The bath push-chair didn’t know whether it wanted to be a chariot, adult pram or go kart so it just became all three.
Though originally used in the 1700s to transport disabled persons, for some reason the creators decided to add a steering device to the front for the rider, which I imagine was disastrous for getting to places on time.
It could also be attached to a mare or pony and had a folding hood to suit the weather.
Though bulky and not terribly aerodynamic, this historic piece served as the forefather of the wheelchair, an iconic item that has revolutionized the way we transport and care for those in need of extra assistance.
The Chaise Longue
Image Courtesy of First Dibs
“Tell me about your mother”. It’s no wonder Freud used this one time day bed for his psychoanalysis patients.
Originally utilised by the Egyptians and Romans for siestas, the chaise longue has since been associated with hypnotherapy and psychology since the late 1800s, probably because patients felt so darn comfortable laying down and talking about their feelings on it.
Though not without criticism, thanks to the great breakthroughs of vanguards such as Freud, Jung and Adler, Psychoanalysis has paved the way for advancements in the treatment of mental trauma and behavioral issues; steering society away from the cultural taboo of mental illness, prevalent in the 19th century.
The High Chair
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
While it remains unknown when the first high chair was created (some museums have artefacts that go as far back as the 17th century) the largest boom would have been recorded around the 1800s just after the industrial revolution.
Babies were most often held for feeding for centuries, however, the advent of the high chair signified the autonomy of the mother from her child in an era where women were making their way economically and politically.
Hence children were given a space where they could observe the family and learn to feed themselves at the dinner table, rather than have everything spoon fed to them, pun intended.
Eames Lounge Chair
Image courtesy of Hive Modern
The designer of this eponymously named chair aimed to create a casual recliner that was simple and “undesigny”, the opposite eventuating with the piece now epitomizing modernity and minimalist 50s class.
More importantly, this item represents the bourgeoisie’s rise to prominence thanks to western capitalism and disposable incomes.
Luxury commodities were becoming heavily accessible to the public thanks to postwar America embracing industry and consumerism, with mass production of goods being the ultimate standard for all businesses.
The Eames Lounge Chair embodies the American dream and its’ key notion of one’s ability to achieve material pleasures through sufficient hard work
The Sacco Bean Bag Chair
Image Courtesy of Connox
The Sacco chair was designed in Italy by the same designers of Vespa, with leather being the original textile of choice due to the nation’s thriving hide industry.
This item was in fact designed in response to culture of consumerism dominating in the west at the time, the target market of the bag being hippies and bohemians in an era of youth discourse and uprising against governing entities, societal and spiritual.
The chair lacked structure, synonymous with the concept of deconstructing the powers that be (or were).
The designers cleverly stated that the item “launched an attack on good bourgeois taste”, further driving the political message home.
The Bar Stool
Image courtesy of Human Office
Why is this the most recent of chairs on our list?
Certainly barstools have been around for generations, yet since 2010, they are starting to find their way into family homes and workplaces.
Before then, the idea was preposterous.
This is not just due to their versatile nature and simple design.
In the face of environmental and economic issues, resourcefulness is king, with barstools representing the ability of the human spirit to adapt and tackle humanities’ problems head on.
Stools/bars are always synonymous with social gatherings and close human proximity, thus, this ideal can hopefully seep into the other unique locations they inhabit, changing the atmosphere into a more communal one.