The demands on visitors’ chairs, also called side chairs, differ from that of a task chair. Since visitors are unlikely to stay seated for a longer period of time, the focus lies less on long-term ergonomic support, but on immediate comfort and representative qualities.
The choice is, therefore, very wide, and side chairs offer the opportunity to furnish the office with some of the most revered icons of product design, as well as with the most innovative, contemporary pieces. Marcel Breuer’s Thonet-manufactured, steel cantilever ‘S 32’, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s elegant and luxurious ‘Brno flat bar Side Chair’ by Knoll International, or the more relaxed ‘Cantilevered Chair Wood’ by Richard J. Neutra, produced by VS, are all versatile, representative, early modern classics.
The post-war architects, designers and artists were just as prolific and continued experimenting with materials and typologies. Charles and Ray Eames’s Vitra-manufactured ‘Eames plastic Armchair DAW’ combines a plastic, organically shaped shell with upholstering and is available in a wide variety of colour and the base frames. Eero Saarinen’s ‘Saarinen Tulip Side Chair’s organically shaped seat stands on one cast aluminium leg, while Harry Bertoia’s ‘Bertoia Side chair is woven from slender steel wires, both are still in production by Knoll International.
Since then, side chairs’ design has become even more diverse. Some designers embrace tradition, whether in the form of the plush, upholstered ‘Oxford’ visitors’ armchair by Poltrona Frau, or Marcel Wanders’s spindly ‘New Antiques | NA/1’ side chair for Cappellini. Philippe Starck uses traditional forms for his ‘Kong’ visitors’ chair for emeco, but casts it from aluminium. Conversely, his ‘Ero S’ for Kartell is a wholly modern, glossy polycarbonate side chair mounted on slender, steel rod base.
Such modern approach is evident in Felix Schwake’s further abstraction of the cantilever side chair into ‘Commodus’ for Rechteck, which consists of single aluminium strip bent into a sober, orthogonal shape. KiBiSi’s ‘Shanghay Chair’ for Hay combines simple, plywood segments into an graceful, understated chair, and finally, Martin Ballendat bends an oval band of plywood into the futuristic seat of ‘Perillo Lounge chair’ for Züco.