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Ancient Chairs that Changed the World

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

This week is all about the history of chairs. *Insert happy sigh and light drooling*. As a designer, chairs are my absolute favorite thing to source, purchase, and enjoy. They can tell a story, add personality to a space, and of course, increase the usability of a room. From the dawn of time, humans have searched for a place to rest our weary bones. Behold: Ancient Chairs.


These five chairs are some of the most influential forms that guided the design and structure of chairs historically and still today. Now take a seat ;) and get to learning!


HATNEFER'S CHAIR - ANCIENT EGYPT (1492 - 1473 BCE)

The Egyptians were making and using chairs as early as the 2nd Dynasty (2785 BCE). They were typically low to the ground, rectilinear, and made of carved, imported wood. They ranged from simplistic 3-legged stools to ornate thrones. The more ornate and the higher off the ground, the higher the status. This example was found in the tomb of Hatneter. She was the mother of a high-ranking official in the 18th Dynasty (1400s BCE). The carved lion-paw legs of this chair are ubiquitous in high-caste chairs of this time period, but it is not as tall nor decorative as a Pharaoh's throne would have been. You will see this style edited and copied in chairs throughout history.


THE KLISMOS CHAIR - ANCIENT GREECE (4TH - 5TH CENTURY)

If you don't know the Klismos, you don't know chairs. Many consider this the most timeless of all chairs. The ancient Greeks were masters at many things: art, poetry, philosophy, medicine...the list goes on and furniture was one of these things. This is a prime example of how they valued aesthetic beauty and comfort. With it's curved back rail, sweeping legs, and overall elegance, this chair is classic and distinctive. It's shape will be copied repeatedly

in chair designs all over the world in every material, into infinitum. The Klismos is the original icon.


EQUIPALE BARREL CHAIR - AZTEC EMPIRE MEXICO (14TH - 16TH CENTURY)

Made famous in the 20th Century and now omnipresent at beach resorts around the world, this chair was originally created by the Aztecs in the 14th Century. The origin of the word equipale is "icpalli" which means: Chair for Gods. This type of furniture was reserved for high-class society. They were handmade with various types of reed, wicker, wood, and pig leather. Today, they are available in nearly any fabric, color, and size you'd like! You'll see these in Southwestern homes, eclectic hippie homes, high-end beach houses, or basically anywhere that calls for a bit of rustic texture.


MING STYLE CHAIR - MING DYNASTY CHINA (14TH - 18TH CENTURY)

This representation of the Ming-style chair is what you will find if you google the term. Though in actuality, this decorative, curved design is only indicative of Late Ming and even Early Qing Dynasty chairs. Early Ming chairs feature the same yoke back shown here but are much more simple in shape. These Chinese chairs were among the first to value comfort AND detail. Many contemporary chairs take notes from the early Ming Chair with THE swooping lines and comfortable form.


THE SAVONAROLA - ITALIAN RENAISSANCE (15TH - 16TH CENTURY)

There are various versions of this chair. Some are folding, some are not. Some are wooden and some are brass. They go by Dante, Dantesca, X-Base, Curule, or Scissors Chair, with

varying degrees of adornment. Though they all have a similar shape and function - an easily movable sitting spot. (The Curule is the only one without a backrest). These chairs first appeared in the 15th Century but did not gain their name until the 19th Century, when we saw a resurgence in their popularity. A modern, simplified version of this chair is the Director's Chair.


That's all for now! Circle back soon for "Classic Chairs" - designs from 1700 - 1900! Or if you need help choosing a chair for your space, feel free to reach out and we can get started on creating the perfect furniture selection for your home!




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