5 Modern Chairs That Changed Our Lives

Comfort, ease, and perfect ergonomics are the hallmarks of a good chair. Read about the four designer chairs (plus one affordable seat) that have changed the way we make and use furniture.

Photography: Dairy Darilag & Ocs Alvarez Styling: Dagny Madamba (left) & Gwyn Guanzon (right)

If stating that a “chair has changed your life” seems a bit much to take in, try to imagine life before the modern chair. Chairs prior to the mid-1800s were unwieldy things—heavy, bulky objects that were to be passed on to the next generation, but hardly portable. Not all were comfortable, as comfort was subjective as to how well it was upholstered, or to what angle the furniture maker created for the backrest.

Modern chair design eschews all that. Chairs today put a premium on ergonomics, comfort, and ease of use, and this all boils down to technology, innovation, and new materials. Here are five chairs that are iconic—not because these made by designers—but because these pieces have changed how furniture is made and used.

Chair 214 by Thonet


Even though this 19th-century chair was made of wood, it changed how people produced furniture forever. Austrian furniture-maker Michael Thonet created this chair in 1859, and its bentwood technology and lightweight frame made it a stackable, portable chair that was easy to mass-produce and ship (it was easy to pack and took up little space). Often called the “café chair,” it is truly the first chair for modern times, and more than 50 million pieces have been produced since.

Barcelona Chair

Designed by modernist master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the International Exposition in 1929, the Barcelona Chair has transcended from being a designer chair to becoming a timeless classic. Using the “form follows function” principle of modern design, van der Rohe created a simple chair with a frame made out of one seamless piece of metal, and a seat and backrest upholstered in comfortable pigskin. Knoll currently produces the original Barcelona Chair.

Eames LCW

Modern design couple Charles and Ray Eames created the LCW or “Lounge Chair Wood” (or “Low Chair Wood”) back in 1945. The LCW was created using the same molded plywood technology the Eameses used to create molded plywood splints for the US Air Force during World War 2. The chair has become a design classic, with its “honest” design that shows how all parts are joined and formed. You can buy the original LCW locally at CWC.

Panton Chair

Danish designer Verner Panton launched this frequently copied chair in 1967, and it was groundbreaking—not only because it was made out of one piece of plastic—but because of its ergonomic, elegant, gravity-defying cantilevered shape. “It pushed plastic’s uses. It has since been produced with four different materials and production techniques, and bears the signature of Panton at the back,” says Matthias Remmele, curator of the 2008 Verner Panton exhibit in Singapore.  


The Monobloc

If there was any modern chair that could bridge various countries, cultures, and social strata, it is the Monobloc chair, officially launched in 1983 by the Grosfillex group as a low-cost, injection-moulded-plastic stacking chair. “The Monobloc chair does not discriminate much in terms of design or cost,” explains assistant professor Teresa Quevedo of the College of Home Economics, UP Diliman. “It is not fussy…because it is made of plastic, it can be washed and dried easily.  It is also stackable and therefore easy to store.  Even people from lower socio-economic classes buy it because of the value they get for its price.” Get this super-affordable chair at Uratex for only P276 to P390.

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