We often use the word “comfort” to talk about the furniture that we buy. We like our furniture to be as comfortable as possible, but the truth is that this changes from person to person. Mid-century modern design is popular because its proponents became preoccupied with this matter and attempted to produce furniture that was comfortable for everyone.
However, they also worried about functionality and aesthetic. They wanted their pieces to be beautiful and serve a purpose. All famous mid-century designers juggled between these three categories, sometimes greatly favoring one in place of another. The movement itself, mid-century modernism, was born of the amalgamation of the designs they left us, and the lessons that come with them.
Examining the classics today
Think about the Eames chair: everywhere you look there’s a perfect review. For people who enjoy design there’s no comparison (except for maybe the Womb chair, but that one is in a league of its own). However, some people would never choose it over, say, a La-Z-Boy.
The Eameses were preoccupied with the three main categories equally, but the people who build La-Z-Boys only care about one of them: comfort. Going back to the Womb chair, its creator, Eero Saarinen, famously said that he didn’t believe a person could be “truly comfortable” after they left their mother’s womb. He wanted to give that feeling back.
Thus, the Womb chair is as preoccupied with comfort as a La-Z-boy, maybe even more so. We could also argue that it leaves behind a tad of functionality and aesthetic. It doesn’t really resemble our idea of a chair more than the Eames lounger does, for example. The Eames, on the other hand, has more functionality: think about its reclining features and how they are an integral part of the resting experience.
Following this line of thought, take the Eames office chairs and sofa into consideration: they come from the same ergonomic principle that makes the Eames lounger so great, but both designs are thinner and have lost their reclining capabilities. Why did this happen? Because being comfortable does not necessarily equate being relaxed, you need to be active in a work environment, and the Eameses understood this.
What can this teach me about choosing the right furniture?
Always be on the lookout for purpose before comfort. Purpose is what allowed these genius designers to successfully blend artistic prowess with functionality. They made it work because they knew when, where, and how it should work.
Think about what your needs are, your routine, even your aspirations. Don’t purchase furniture out of a pure design to follow the current trends. There’s something for everyone, and there’s always something more for a person that knows who they are. Go to a showroom and try things for yourself, become involved, and come home with a piece that speaks not only to your eyes, but your back, legs, arms, and lifestyle.