A CLASSIC MATERIAL INTERPRETED FOR MODERN TIMES.
HAVE A SEAT
DESIGNERS GIVE THE WOODEN CHAIR THE REVOLUTION IT NEEDS.
Imagine two empty chairs in a packed cocktail lounge. One’s cushioned, fluffy, with a cool swivel. The other used to be a tree, smooth and unyielding. No surprise which a comfort-seeking guest would choose.
Wooden chairs have long been perceived to be hard, uncomfortable and stiff . The natural grain, colour and warmth of wood make them attractive additions to the home, though they are not necessarily a guest’s fIrst choice of seat.
Designers are always being challenged to find the sweet spot between aesthetics and functionality. To do so, the typical components of a chair are reconsidered, and unusual methods are used to better provide physical comfort without sacrificing visual appeal.
The results are a far cry from the archetypal bum rest. For instance, Hans J. Wegner’s signature Shell Chair incorporated armrests and seat in a single piece of moulded plywood. The revolutionary design drew scepticism from consumers when it was launched in 1963 but it has since gained favour for its deceptive simplicity and uncanny comfort. The push towards reshaping people’s perception of wooden chairs persists today, with more innovative designs that marry form with function and which put woodwork and craftsmanship to the test. Here are some examples.
MOVE AT WILL
Created by Danish designer Jakob Joergensen, the Barca Lounge Chair morphs from a cocoon couch to a jagged seat resembling a Viking ship, with the simple rearrangement of its wooden components. Each piece of Japanese oak plywood is designed to slide along plastic rails, allowing for a multitude of shapes. To achieve its organic form, the wood goes through a strenuous process of heat and pressure to achieve a specific shape and size; all while remaining sturdy enough to be manoeuvreable.
Conde House, #02-42 Millenia Walk.
DIMENSION IN PIECES
The Mattiazzi Medici Chair was born of a desire to use minimal material backed by straightforward construction. Konstantin Grcic’s design recalls paper cut-out models: Each panel of oak acts like a piece of jigsaw that’s fitted together to create the chair. The angular design looks uncomfortable, but the seat’s low height and recline make for an enjoyable sit.
Xtra, #02-48 Marina Square.
Wooden frames, while masterfully crafted, are often eclipsed by a chair’s snazzy padding and upholstery. The Progetti Pure Collection strips these away to reveal what makes the chairs as comfortable as they are: the solid beech frame. In place of a seat and back, a piece of saddle leather is suspended like a hammock from the frame. The armrests of pau ferro wood are inspired by walking sticks, allowing hands to hold on comfortably while the person is seated.
Space, 77 Bencoolen Street.
DREAMS COME TRUE
Elaborating on the moulded plywood concept of Hans J. Wegner’s Shell Chair, Japanese architect Tadao Ando has designed a seat that encourages contemplation. The back, seat and armrests of the Dream Chair are formed from a single piece of veneer that is steampressed for an hour to acquire depth. The “shell” is deliberately angled back to facilitate relaxation and dreaming.
P5, #01-14 Sultan Link, 63 Mohamed Sultan Road.
Every fidget and twitch of the human body is scrutinised by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa, who accommodates these subconscious movements through subtle details in his designs. The back and flat armrest of his signature beech Hiroshima chair are fixed with joints, but the sanding is such that the connection looks seamless. The seat is slightly inclined to accommodate the natural curvature of the spine and comfortably houses the leaning body at various points. Suitable for dining or for work.
Atomi, #04-26/27 Mandarin Gallery.