The Chairs Through The Ages
Since the beginning of existence of humankind, there has obviously been the need for something to sit on. Early humans sat on rocks or the ground, sometimes covered with large leaves to keep comfortable and warm. It was until the ancient Greeks that the 'chair' came in to existence. The word chair is derived from the Latin word cathedra. Chairs these days have become an undeniably essential entity. Chairs surround us everywhere in all shapes and sizes. However, traditional chairs were never considered such a commonplace item.
The Greeks weren't far behind, jumping directly to building chairs with four solid and artsy legs, eventually developing into klismos. The klismos were light and elegant chairs with curved legs and curved back rails to match, with a narrow, curved in backrest between them. These klismos were rapidly adapted by the Romans and spread to almost all the areas they conquered. The Romans had their own brand of chairs as well: there were Sella, the ordinary chairs; the Lectica, a portable couch-like seat used to transport people; the Curule Chairs, folding chairs brought to the Colosseum by the Senators; and last but definitely not the least, the Bisellium, which was the chair occupied by the Emperor during the games at the Colosseum.
Chairs had become a common commodity by the mid 17th century greatly due to the Renaissance. It took another century for carpenters to realize that chairs should both look good and be comfortable to sit on. This concept spawned a generation of chair designers that eventually led to the gradual move towards chairs as we know them today.
The French have had great influence in the development of chairs as we know them. French craftsmen and designers were the first ones to produce the forerunners of today's lightweight and comfy chairs. Their designs inspired the creation of new breeds of chairs. Whereas chairs were previously merely used for dining and working at desks, the new ideas brought forward lounge chairs, chairs of various heights, armchairs, rocking chairs, sleeping chairs and many more.
By the 18th century when the chairs were still being crafted by hand, more and more curves were added to their designs. This required great revenue and resources since any curved shape was cut out from a solid block of wood: the curvier the design, the more wood was required. Ever since the chair had become a common commodity, we see that it began changing styles every so often in order stay in the same fashion league as the rest of the world.
While the 19th century saw the revival of chair designs of the olden days, the 20th century brought forward the immense use of technology in chair construction and design. Focus was shifted towards producing ergonomic chairs and use of materials other than wood to increase variety and reduce excessive use of timber. New types of chairs came to be seen: metal folding chairs, bean bags, plastic chairs. New shapes were brought forward such as the Butterfly chair. Leather and polymer chairs came to be seen at every nook and cranny. As technology grew further, it got integrated into chairs to form adjustable chairs, sofas that can turn into bed at the touch of a button, automatic wheelchairs and numerous other innovations.
It is an undeniable fact that chairs are an essential part of our lives. No matter what we do, chairs are a necessity, whether we're studying, working, eating, resting or just plain running out of storage space! Even though every chair may not be as comfortable as it may seem at first, the chair is here, it's here to stay and the search for the most comfortable chair is still on its way.
Annie is an expert furniture and interior design writer. Her current area of specialism is bed linen, bedrooms and shelving
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