lounge chair design, the need to unwind, furniture classics up to thonet


upholstered chaise lounge thonet brothers 1900

upholstered chaise lounge thonet brothers 1900

can you picture lying around in this lounge chair in 1900?  this is the edwardian era in england of ‘upstairs downstairs’ and ‘mary poppins.’  who had the time to lounge then?  only the few, only the rich.  but life is stressful for all walks of life and the chaise lounge offers a welcome attitude-in-waiting to unwind.  

i was glad to find these pics on designboom.com.  they have several pages of the history of the day bed.  nice idea, history had, to bed in the day.  i concur (today, at least).  to go all day and stop only at night does not always cut it.  not that i do not believe in hard work, and live to work, but some moments of calm, of thought, of rest, of sanctuary, are needed to pause in the day or to unwind in the evening. having your feet up at such moments helps.    

here are some of thonet’s chaise lounge predecessors and others of their designs of that era.  relax and imagine.  

medieval drawing of a day-bed, early 13th century @ designboom.com

medieval drawing of a day-bed, early 13th century


resting bed (in french lit a repose), england, later 16th century

resting bed (in french 'lit a repose'), england, later 16th century


chair a duchesse , france 1765

chair 'a duchesse' , france 1765


kangaroo day bed virginia 1830s

kangaroo day bed, virginia 1830s


napoleon III steel camp daybed circa 1850

napoleon III steel camp daybed circa 1850


rocking reclining chaise-longue, thonet brothers, austria 1883

rocking reclining chaise-longue, thonet brothers, austria 1883


thonet chaise-lounge, austria, ca. 1890

thonet chaise-lounge, austria, ca. 1890


thonet chaise lounge ca. 1980

thonet chaise lounge ca. 1980


garden recliner, thonet brothers, ca. 1900

garden recliner, thonet brothers, ca. 1900

 maybe they were gazing at a garden like this…. whilst pondering future artistic possibilities of the chaise lounge pose.

english garden landscape design


furniture design and the lounge chair search: organic form


organic form french lounge chair @ bond and bowery

organic form french lounge chair @ bond and bowery

now this is a smooth looking chair, and i find the shape inviting.  it has new upholstery and the wide arm rests, the contrast with the clean fabric and the wood are wonderful.  it swivels and rocks.  made “in the spirit of richard neutra,” the ad says, of a 1950s design.  

if i did not have cats, it would look as perfect as it does in this picture in a few years, in my house. maybe i shall deal with the cats and dash up to center 44 in ny, with $8,500, to get this chair!  

center 44 is advertising on bond and bowery, and their website was a valuable find in my lounge chair design search.  the whole site is a pleasing exploration of art in furnishings and furniture, antique, vintage and modern, with succinct but informative descriptions of each piece.  

thanks to material girls blog for their blog about the bond and bowery website.  

the frenchman richard neutra designed the california landmark, the lovell heath house, by the way, also a classic in architectural design.   

the lovell health house, california, designed by

the lovell health house, 1929, california, designed by richard neutra who inspired the lounge chair above

eames was also an architect first, and said that furniture design was architecture, and was inspired himself in part by richard neutra.   we are never an island.

the best lounge chair design: the la-z-boy??


a la-z-boy recliner

a la-z-boy recliner



second to tv’s, la-z-boy recliners are the fastest selling items at your local thrift store.  for some this may be the perfect lounge chair.  their factory pumps out 6000 a day, they say.  maybe la-z-boy’s stocks will never go down.  the makers have an impressive history of clever invention, risk taking, hard work. you can read about it at lazboy incorporated company history.  and shop for a wide variety of reclining chair styles at la-z-boy.com.

we have one at my house, and it has been well used.  but for my personal hunt for a lounge chair, it is out of the running right away.  it is an anti-social chair.  it says “leave me alone with my tv.”  now this may be harsh, but tell me this is not what most people in your house sit in it for?  

when i lounge, i prefer not to do nothing or to zone out.  i like to talk with a friend, read a book, do some needlework, or diddle on my laptop (check my mail, scan the news, do a bit of twittering and blogging, read interior design articles and blogs), have a drink or eat a bit.  these activities are not conducive to the reclined position.  i want my feet up, sometimes, to rest my head, sometimes, but to maintain an attitude of engagement with life and the people around me.  when i want to check out and sleep i go to bed. 

compromise: at our house a few years ago we bought a big leather couch, each half of which reclines, with no arm rest (divider contraption) in the middle.  it is one big cosy lounge couch for two, or for two with a grandchild in between.  it still sort of says, “leave us alone we are watching tv,” but it is more social.  and jungle book or mary poppins make for very happy conversation with a small person.


reclining sofa -- for social tv watching

reclining sofa -- for social tv watching

furniture design – in search of the perfect lounge chair – 2/2 meet the eames version


eames herman miller classic lounge chair

eames herman miller classic lounge chair - sold on ebay for $3,251.00

i love the bent rose wood shell, and leather (or vinyl) are my favorite upholstery choices.  in search of a great lounge chair for me, i like an ottoman chair combination.  this is a great chair, but…

the leather is dark (black, usually), and it has a masculine look.  i want a chair that will hold up outdoors, under a porch, but still out in the humidity, in florida. herman miller does make an aluminum lounge chair with ottoman, which they expect to be used outdoors.


Herman Miller® - Eames® Aluminum Group Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Herman Miller® - Eames® Aluminum Group Lounge Chair and Ottoman

again, it has a decidedly masculine look.  not as soft.  this one sells for $1,928.00, new. (click on the picture to link).


here is part 2 of the introduction of the 1956 eames lounge chair.  note that a man is sitting in it, in the advert, and the woman is perched prettily on the footstool….. nice picture, but i want to lounge some too! (and i don’t think i perch so prettily…and not much perching at all, now that i think about it.)

Eames Lounge Chair debut in 1956 on NBC [2/2]


furniture design – how to search for the perfect lounge chair – 1/2 meet the eames

i have been considering the definition of a lounge chair — there seem to be several out there, and most are not quite what i want.  it seems i do not lounge with the same purpose as others.  (more on that in another blog, in a series of how to find the best lounge chair for you).

one of the classics is the creation of the eames.  here is an intriguing clip from 1956, another time another place….  check out the new england (almost english) accents and meet the eames.  i like their style.

Eames Lounge Chair debut in 1956 on NBC [1/2]

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it explains many different styles of blogging which you can incorporate into your blog

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6 tips for practical furniture design – chairs, curves, glasses of wine

life is complicated, it has radical ups and downs.  we need more curves, they calm, they welcome us…. and a long lunch sometimes with a good friend,  good cheese and a glass or two of wine.

i noticed at this cafe (where i was appreciating the company, and the fare, this week) that the chairs were all in the style of thonet’s 14.  metal versions with vinyl seats, but here was thonet’s design, which was originally launched and sold millions in the mid to late 1800s in europe and america.

thonets innovative no. 14 chair

thonet's innovative no. 14 chair

later the same day i watched the 2005 movie “pride and prejudice” (one of my favorites).  there was nothing like this design in all the interiors. everything was elaborate, ornate, heavy- more so with the more affluent.  i wondered how thonet managed to be successful with this design in the society of those times.  and why, after 150 years, is it still popular?  these questions brought me to today’s blog, and here are my answers.

6 basics that thonet’s chairs have – great for any chair design, but especially for dining chairs.

  1. it is curved – most of nature has curved lines.  man’s inventions are most practically made with straight lines and sharp angles. maybe the curves are attractive because we need a break from the ups and downs of our man made days.  there are many angular modern furnishings available today, but i find this style unwelcoming.
  2. the design is simple – the french and american revolutions, and the industrial revolution, were pushing away the need for everyone to prove that they were rich and upwardly mobile in society.  class mattered less. increasingly, you could sit with a friend from any walk of life at a local cafe and have a meal together.
  3. it is radical – the simplicity and the new lines of the modern were, in thonet’s time, shocking.  this is a good thing.  we often need to be shaken out of our old ways, thoughts and patterns of living.  otherwise there is no change.
  4. it is strong – thonet’s chair must have held up well to use, or he would not have kept selling them.  when thonet’s bent beechwood proved to be weak in tropical climates, he worked on twisting the wood while it was being bent, and he bought the glue factory that supplied his factories so that he could improve the glue.  many chairs these days are made of cheap, weak materials, weak at the joints, or the design just does not hold up to use.  and now there is the problem of obesity.  recently i was shopping for a new lounge chair for our deck and the label said, among other things about the care of the chair, “maximum load 300 lbs.”  new challenge for chair designers!
  5. the seating can be replaced easily – the seat on thonet’s chair could be replaced and cleaned easily.  the seats were solid wood or a woven grass. when similar chairs are covered with fabric, which will inevitably get dirty or torn in a dining setting, a new covering can simply be stapled on and seat reattached the chair.  sounds like an unimpressive feature, but i have worked on many chairs that were a nightmare to repair or re-upholster.
  6. it is light – heavy furniture is made by people who never do any cleaning.
another thonet design for an after dinner rest with curves