Strictly speaking, armchairs are simply chairs that feature armrests. Over time, they have become associated with comfort, and some designers, on a quest to reduce the armchair’s form to its essence, have omitted the chair’s eponymous armrests altogether. Nowadays, the product group is varied, offering a wide scale of seating solutions, ranging from traditional, through minimalist, to wholly conceptual.
For tradition with a twist, consider Jasper van Grootel’s ‘Plastic Fantastic voltaire I’ by JSPR or Maarten Baas’s ‘smoke Chair’ for moooi. Both armchairs take antique forms, but the former is manufactured wholly out of rubber, while the latter’s wooden frame is charred by fire and then painted black to match the upholstery.
The most famous armchair in the world, the luxurious leather ‘Barcelona Chair’, designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929 and manufactured by Knoll International, has no armrests, while Jasper Morrison’s ‘tagliatelle armchair 717’ for Alias, whose seat is woven out of broad strands of fabric into thin steel structure, features the necessary armrests, but doesn’t conform to the product group’s plush finish.
Eileen Gray’s ClassiCon-produced ‘Non Conformist’ leaves one of the armrests out in order to allow freedom of movement, and Pierre Paulin’s delightfully colourful ‘Orange Slice’ armchair for Artifort provides the place to rest one’s arms simply by the virtue of its enveloping form. Jean-Marie Massaud’s billowing ‘Wallace’ for Poliform is supported by thin metal rods, taking another step forward in the formal evolution of this type.
Material possibilities are tested in Grete Jalk’s ‘GJ Chair’ by Lange Productions, an exploration of the limits of bent plywood; in Marc Newson’s ‘Wooden Chair’, made from thin, parallel strips of bent beechwood, uniting them in a single swooping gesture; and in Marcel Wanders’s ‘Knotted Chair | KC/1’, knotted from carbon and aramid fibre cord and strengthened with epoxy resin for a transparent and light design.
On a more conceptual note, Maria Westerberg’s ‘T-shirt Chair’ for Green Furniture Sweden weaves leftover rags into a metal frame, while Marijn van der Poll’s ‘Do hit chair’ for Droog starts out as stainless steel cube that the user can hammer to provide whatever seating area they wish.