Monday, September 14, 2015

About Plastic Chairs

In 1950, after a decade of experiments, Charles and Ray Eames introduced a chair that looked and performed like no other. It was lightweight, flexible, comfortable and affordable—and all because it was plastic.
In the past decade alone, some 500,000 Eames Molded Plastic Chairs have been sold globally, fulfilling Charles Eames’s ambition to make “the best for the most for the least.” (The price of the classic currently starts at $319.)
Originally made of a fiberglass-reinforced polyester resin used for World War II shock helmets, the Eames chair was produced until 1989, when Herman Miller, the chair’s manufacturer for North America, discontinued it because of the material’s health threat to factory workers. In 2000, the chair was brought back in polypropylene, which bore no risk and had the advantage of being recyclable. In 2014, Herman Miller released a safe, recyclable fiberglass version.
Few chairs are more versatile: The collection includes models with and without arms in a variety of colors, with bases of wood or metal that sit squarely or rock.
Or more influential: The Eames classic has seen many offspring over the years, and the category continues to thrive. Among the descendants shown at the international furniture fair in Milan in April were chairs by Jasper Morrison, for the American company Emeco; Alfredo Häberli, for the Italian company Alias; and Simon Legald, for the Danish company Normann Copenhagen.
The market for plastic chairs is insatiable, interior designers say, because of their many virtues. “They’re practical; you can wipe them. You can put them in any room,” said New York-based Vicente Wolf, whose clients have included Twyla Tharp, Egon von Furstenberg and Clive Davis. The protean material can be easily contoured for comfort or visual drama, Mr. Wolf added, and he appreciates the color range. He is partial to bright, sinuous Panton chairs, which are effectively $310 pieces of sculpture.
Ghislaine Viñas, a fellow New York designer known for colorful interiors, said a plastic chair “is hip, it’s not precious, and if you’re tired of it inside, you can move it outside.” Ms. Viñas also noted that world-class designers frequently create the chairs, so if you want relatively inexpensive furniture by, say, Ron Arad or Philippe Starck, here’s your chance. She singled out Mr. Arad’s Tom Vac chair ($455) and Mr. Starck’s Toy chair ($972 for four) among her favorites.

Courtesy Wall Street Journal
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