Great Designs: The Evolution of the Office Chair


The first office chair can be traced back to ancient Roman times. It was called the “curule chair” and was the seat upon which magistrates, consuls, praetors and even high priests were allowed to sit. Wonder how office chairs have changed? Read on...!


In 44 BC a senate decree granted Julius Caesar the “curule seat” everywhere where his gilded chair and jeweled crown were carried, putting him on a par with the gods. No wonder bosses always want the best chair!


Fast forward a couple of thousand years to the home office of naturalist Charles Darwin. He needed to look at his specimens whilst writing his papers and books, and had the idea of fitting wheels to the feet of his chair in order to speed up the process of getting around his room.


The beginning of the 1840s is generally thought to herald the origins of modern business management and across the pond, the American Chair Company of Troy in New York began manufacturing the Centripetal Spring Armchair in 1949. One of the first uses of ornamental iron in furniture, it looks a bit like a steampunk version of something a Victorian maiden aunt might have swivelled and rocked on as she penned her letters.


Like Darwin’s idea, office chairs were specifically designed to increase productivity. It eliminated the time and energy people would need to reach for things in their work area, with the additional bonus of making it possible for clerical staff to remain sitting at their desks for long periods of time.



The Centripetal Spring Armchair | Designed by Thomas E Warren | American Chair Company of Troy, New York



The Centripetal Spring Armchair ~ Designed by Thomas E Warren ~ American Chair Company of Troy, New York
Source: British Airways, Business Life



The typist chair appeared in the 1890s - 20 years after the introduction of the typewriter - and was based on the design of the Singer chair which sewing machinists used. It was designed to give postural support and comfort, whether sitting upright, leaning backwards or reclining, with a sloping seat and spring loaded backrest.


At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, other types of office chair were much more attractive. They were made from polished woods like mahogany and oak, and, if you were lucky, you also had a padded leather seat. Captain’s chairs are still very popular and there’s a lively market in antique originals.



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Great Designs: Office Design over the Decades




It wasn’t until the 1970s that the design of office chairs was revolutionised. In 1970, interiors designer Wilhem Ritz designed the 232 Chair which was the first to make use of a gas cylinder to adjust the height of the seat.


In 1976, the US furniture designer William Stumpf culminated 10 years of research into how people sit when they work in order to “make a beautiful chair, comfortable” with the launch of the ErgonChair. This involved many consultations with orthopaedic surgeons and cardiovascular specialists to understand the effects of the seated posture on the body's circulatory system, muscles and bones when performing various tasks.


Modern office chairs - Boss Design Group - Coza


Modern Office Chairs ~ Boss Design Group - Coza



In the following years, Stumpf collaborations produced the Equa chair in 1984 and the modern classic Aeron chair in 1995, which was named a ‘Design of the Decade’ by the Industrial Designers Society of America in 2000, and which is still much sought after today. Stumpf said of the design: “The human form has no straight lines; it is biomorphic. We designed the chair to be, above all, biomorphic… There is not one straight line to be found on an Aeron chair.”




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Great Designs: Technological Advancements in the Modern Office




Following the massive success of the Ergon and Aeron, we have seen various weird and wonderful types of office furniture which have been designed to help us sit properly including the kneeler chair, exercise ball chair and tilting stool.


The latest trend is to get rid of the chair altogether in favour of standing, as many believe it’s better for your posture, concentration and health. The jury’s out as to whether or not standing should be the new sitting, but it’s highly likely that the office chair will be around for many years to come!


Now it seems the full adjustablility of office chairs for operator comfort may be a thing of the past. Take the Boss Design Group Coza, as picture above. Its revolutionary design has received multiple awards including:


  • Best of NeoCon Silver Award 2015
  • Mixology Product of The Year 2015
  • Red Dot Product Design Award 2015


“Coza is fast becoming an iconic design as it shatters the market’s preconceived expectations about what a task chair should be. Aside from its superior ergonomics that negate the need for user adjustment, we now have a truly multifunctional product that can be specified as a task, touchdown or meeting chair,” Founder and Chairman of The Boss Design Group, Brian Murray


If you’re looking for an office chair revolution, talk to us for advice on office furniture which is good for your health, posture and budget, or get in touch to find out more about our complimentary office space planning and office design service.