Sunday, November 30, 2008

highlights of task chair history

I'm not really qualified to report a history of office task chairs, but there are some obvious milestones on the way to what is offered today. Among the inexpensive and often inadequate offerings of cheap office supply stores you will see the spawn of past seating breakthroughs now offered as 3rd generation knock-offs of once revolutionary office chair designs. The take away from all this is don't cheat yourself on your office chair. Next to your mattress its probably the place where you will spend the biggest part of your day, and possibly harm yourself the most if you don't have a decent chair.

task chair history

Things we take for granted today, like a task chair that swivels and rolls on casters, were originally seen as ways to increase the productivity of the office worker. Just about every breakthrough in office seating has had the same motivation. Ergonomics, the study of people's efficiency in their working environment, has lead to the addition of other features and strategies for making productive seating for the office. We'll spend some time over a few posts looking at the emergence of these features before we look at a range of contemporary office chairs.

task chair history

The first breakthroughs were getting the chairs on castors and swivel + tilting bases. You'll notice that almost all older office chairs had four legs with castors following the four legs of conventional chairs. The convention of a five leg spider base which is much more resistant to tipping over came much later.

catalog images above from Past Present Future

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

sim chair by vitra

sim chair by vitra

The Sim Chair designed by Jasper Morrison and made by Vitra looks like your basic sled base plastic chair, and while its priced like one there are intelligent design decisions that make it a superior chair.

sim chair by vitra

First the roll front of the plastic seat makes the chair much more comfortable than your average plastic chair. Never will you have the knife edge of the plastic seat digging into the back of your knee. Also the flexible back piece gives the chair some resilience and flex that you often don't see in a chair like this. The flex is reminiscent of a task chair back and makes longer sitting periods more comfortable.

sim chair by vitra

It also stacks for storage - always a great help when you work in a small space and don't need all the chairs out all the time. I have four of these for our meeting area, so I'm bias. We ordered them with contrasting color for backs and seats - an option you won't be offered on most chairs in this range.

sim chair by vitra

Sim chair by Vitra

Monday, November 24, 2008

panton chair

panton chair

We all know this one. It has an unmistakable form and you have seen it in magazine ads, movies, and other media for your whole life. Well the best part is its a relatively affordable plastic chair. If you've never sat in one it can be a little deceiving. They sit very well, with just a little flex that makes them comfortable for more than a short span.

panton chair

Originally these were made from hard fiberglass shells, but many manufacturers like Vitra have moved on to a polypropylene shell. Sometimes you can get a bargain on a used set, but if you look at an old one you'll be into collector's territory and the prices will shoot back up.

panton chair

These are widely available and it seems there must be some copying going on out there. Here is info from Vitra's site about the chair:

Because of technical progress in plastics processing, Panton Chair has been through a number of production phases since its original launch. The last version of the chair authorized by Verner Panton was produced in collaboration with the designer at the end of the 1990s. This model realized one of Panton’s fundamental objectives for the first time: a plastic chair as an affordable industrial product.

Panton Chair at Vitra

Sunday, November 23, 2008

rhythm chair by stylex

rhythm chair by stylex

Lots of options, and a unique lumbar support shell set this chair apart from other low price plastic chairs. The basic armless chair comes with legs or sled base. You can have arms, pads, castors, ganging, stool height, and they stack for storage.

rhythm chair by stylex

Description from their site:

+ Injection-molded recyclable polypropylene shell and polycarbonate arms in 15 standard opaque and translucent resins (color match shell option).
+ Powder-coated or chrome-plated steel frame.
+ Arm and armless versions.
+ 4-leg base available with glides or casters; sled base offers ganging option.
+ Upholstery – lumbar cushion; seat and lumbar cushion.
+ Stackable counter height and bar height stools available.

rhythm chair by stylex

Rythm Chair by Stylex

rhythm chair by stylex

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

tom vac chair by vitra

tom vac chair by vitra

The Tom Vac chair by Vitra is one of my favorite plastic chairs, but alas its quite a bit more expensive than my 100$/chair target. What we did was to get just two of them, to put at the ends of our meeting table, and used less costly color matched chairs for the rest.

tom vac chair by vitra

The Tom Vac was designed by Ron Arad and introduced by Vitra in 1999. Its got a far out swoopy look, but its also very practical in that it is a stacker (you know, a stacker is a chair that nests so they can be stored stacked up). It is not an arm chair perse, but is a big bucket shape that reminds me of the Eames fiberglass shell with arms. Like the Eames chair the Tom Vac is offered with alternate bases in other markets (sorry USA, not available). You can get a rocker base - Tom Roc, or a task chair base with casters - Tom Roll. I know, corny, clever, and fun.

tom vac chair by vitra

So while it may be a bit much for a full set of chairs, both cost wise and visually, it makes a good highlight to your meeting setup.

Tom Vac by Vitra

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

sick like dog

I have to ask for your pardon while posting is slow for a little while as I'm under the weather. I am going to try to get some things posted, but I'm basically a dazed walking germ culture right now so keep your expectations low!

Monday, November 17, 2008

eames shell chair

eames shell chair

The Eames fiberglass shell chair was really the first affordable plastic chair. Conceived in the late 1940s this chair design has endured to remain very popular today. Originally offered with a range of bases, including basic tubular legs, trussed Eiffel tower legs, low lounge bases, as well as rockers, the variety trailed off during the middle years with Herman Miller only offering the basic tubular steel legs. As a result the original chairs with the alternate legs became very valuable collectors items. Unfortunately that worked against it as an affordable chair.

eames shell chair

Fast forward to today, many other manufacturers have stepped in with affordable copies of the chair, and most notably Modernica has a claim to producing the chairs with the original process on the original molds. So while you can find a decent knock off version for 150$ you are more likely to pay upwards of twice that for a basic tubular base from Herman Miller or Modernica, and more for the other variety's of bases.

eames shell chair

The good thing however is its fairly easy to find examples from the middle years, produced by Herman Miller with the tubular legs which are not particularly valuable as collectors items. You can often find these for under $100 each made in the 70s, or 80s before the resurgence of interest in the chair. So while this mother of all affordable plastic chairs costs more, you'll be able to find them at our target pricing with a little work.

eames shell chair

Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair
Modernica Eames Shell Chair

eames shell chair

Friday, November 14, 2008

lofty architecture office of dake-wells, springfield, mo

lofty architecture office of dake-wells, springfield, mo

Flickr user Hoodlam has photos of his workplace at architecture office Dake-Wells posted in his photo stream. On the top floor of a masonry commercial building in Springfield, Missouri, this space has all the characteristics of a post-industrial loft workplace. Open plan office -check, exposed brick and rafters - check, exposed spiral ductwork - check. Lets not confuse the issue though - these are not things you do to make something "loft-style". These are things you do because they are expedient, affordable, and functional - its essentially a modern design aesthetic in an existing space. More images and links below the fold.

lofty architecture office of dake-wells, springfield, mo

Great freestanding conference space. Click through to the photos to see the very cool bent steel plate step into the conference room.

The office is on the top floor of this building:

lofty architecture office of dake-wells, springfield, mo

Hoodlam's Dake-Wells office set
Dake-Wells Architecture

time to look at seating

time to look at seating

Yes, the 800 pound gorilla in the room since I started this blog is seating. Everybody that spends a good deal of time working at a desk should have a decent task chair, so we are going to look at task seating. The other area I want to concentrate on will be the inexpensive plastic chair - ideally a $100 plastic chair. You can't really get a chair that is sturdy and will last for that price, but we'll let it be a benchmark. The reason I think this is an important chair type is because we all need additional seating besides our task chair in our office. But if you are going to get six chairs for a meeting table they have to be reasonably affordable, and they have to have some design presence to them.

Ok, look for seating coming up for a while, there's a lot to look at, and if you love chairs like we love chairs, it will be fun. Send in your favorites and we'll share them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

office micro environments by kapsel

office micro environments by kapsel

from the Kapsel site:

IIDEX/NeoCon 2007 Introducing the multi-sensory Kapsel™: A functional space that stimulates the senses. Create an oasis of calm and relaxation in a busy office. Project soothing sounds and aromatic scent to create a tranquil space to recharge and re-focus employees.

This is a reconfigurable interior space, more than just a partition system, they are seeking to create micro environments within a larger work place. Other images on their site show more applications for presentation areas, conferenceing, and maybe trade show booths?

thanks Pat!

Kapsel

barn like workplace, de leon + primmer

barn like workplace, de leon + primmer

De Leon + Primer, an architure firm in Louisville, Kentucky, works in a barn like space of their own design. The studio space apparently runs down one side of this large barn like building, and in places extends two stories to a skylit roof. Its not clear what the occupancy of the rest of the building is, or if they have the remainder of the space or not. But in any case their linear design studio is very cool.

barn like workplace, de leon + primmer

The are working at what we've come to call the "Big Table Desking" arrangement - in this case it appears to be a series of tables arranged together into large group desks.

barn like workplace, de leon + primmer

De Leon + Primer Architecture

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

doug mockett task bar

doug mockett task bar

Off desk accessory rails have been hugely popular posts here at workalicious so today we are happy to bring you yet another great offering from Doug Mockett. They offer them in 3', 4', and 5' lengths and pre-packaged with a number of accessories. They also have additional accessories a la carte so you can build your own mix of utility. My only complaint is they don't have a good picture of one all assembled in their online catalog as they do in their print catalog. If you are really interested then email them and I'm sure they can share more images.

doug mockett task bar

Doug Mockett Task Bar

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

home office + craft studio, jenn ski

home office + craft studio, jenn ski

A great studio/office/craft workplace by Jenn Ski in her home. She has her workplace centered around a set of vintage chairs and table which I think is a great alternative to conventional desk oriented workplaces. She also has a built in set of wall shelves and cabinets which she rehabilitated to match her new color scheme. See before/after after the link.

home office + craft studio, jenn ski

There is your before

home office + craft studio, jenn ski

And here is the after. Paint, peg-board, and good organization.

Jenn Ski Studio Blog

funky desk w/storage by Jacob Brinck

funky desk w/storage by Jacob Brinck

My information is sketchy on this one. Spotted on a German blog Designlines by Mocoloco we have this interesting freestanding desk with funky storage cubbies and trays built in around the perimeter. Its reminding me of the grease gutter on a commercial griddle - just sweep the detritus off to the side and clear the way for new work! I like that.

funky desk w/storage by Jacob Brinck

Designlines via MocoLoco

Monday, November 10, 2008

buzziscreen

buzziscreen

This great screen is made with recycled plastics, and the individual panels are joined together with zippers to make larger folding screens. This feels really fresh compared to so many of the others screens we've looked at.

buzziscreen

thanks Brian!

Buzziscreen

folding screen by herman miller

folding screen by herman miller

Somehow I overlooked this one earlier when I posted the soft flexible screen. This screen accordion folds back on itself very much like a traditional screen, but the panels are made out of translucent corrugated plastic sheets - like corrugated cardboard in milky white. I actually have one of these in my office and I love it. This was originally produced by Herman Miller as part of their Relay office system, which in its time was a pretty revolutionary freestanding desk system. There, now I've done it - dated myself..

Folding Screen - click on the square for the second photo, scroll down for description.

4site architecture's studio

4site architecture's studio

4site Architecture is a virtual design practice in Australia. Their Melbourne office is located in an interesting live/work structure with a storefront like studio space on the street level and a small dwelling above.

4site architecture's studio

The designers have set up their desk right in the front window overlooking the street life. A great modern structure, nice stone floor, and great light all day long. It looks like a great place to work.

4site architecture's studio

4Site Architecture

eames folding plywood screen, herman miller

eames folding plywood screen, herman miller

Yes, this is a design classic, and if I did not include it in the great screen review of 08 it would have been negligent of me. Lets get the downside out of the way first. Its a little costly, but if you've sipped the cool-aid you won't feel a thing when you lay out for this piece of iconic design.

The wavy profile of the plywood segments always reminded me of an Aalto vase extruded up into a space divider. You can also sometimes find old ones, but I'm afraid that they may be even more costly than a new one. Also I think the originals may have used a cotton based fabric for the joints, at times prone to drying out and failing, while the synthetic used in the newer models is likely more sturdy.

eames folding plywood screen, herman miller

Eames Screen

assorted metal wall hung desks

metal wall hung desks

This is really the roots of the wall hung desk notion - the neanderthal wall hung desk if you will. Essentially industrial products, painted steel, made for manufacturing locations, hospitals, and labs, these metal boxes are the starting place of the more styled wall hung desks we have looked at.

metal wall hung desks

I think that's it - unless something truly interesting surfaces I'm not going to dig any deeper into these. I think I've finally exorcised my curiousity here!

Fold Away Wall Desks at Marinelock.com

Friday, November 7, 2008

tree hugger covers fold-away desks

folding-fabric-desk.jpg

Our friend Lloyd Alter at Tree Hugger picked up on our search for wall hung fold away desks and offered up a few unique samples. If you are hankering for the perfect desk check out his research.

oak-fold-down.jpg

Wall Hung Fold-Away Desks at Treehugger

Thursday, November 6, 2008

mobile elements screens by vitra

mobile elements screens by vitra

The Vitra web site does not have much info on these but they look very cool to me. Three feet, like an extended tripod, and the fabric stretches in a flare at the bottom.

mobile elements screens by vitramobile elements screens by vitra

Vitra Mobile Elements Screens

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