At Manhattan Office Design, we spend a lot of time thinking about office chairs. They are a distinct category of chairs, with their own history. They’re a whole branch of the overall history of seating, from the first rock our ancestors sat on, to Roman curules in ancient times, to the proverbial task chair that I’m using right now.

There’s a lot of information to distill on the subject of office chairs. The evolution of ergonomics, materials, technology, functions… Even the social prejudices and roles attached to a certain type of chair.

To make things easier to digest, here’s a list of 5 important facts you might not know about office chairs.

Who created the first office chair?

Instead of just giving you the answer, we’re going to get a little clickbaity here, because this truly is a surprise. Sometime around the 1800s, one studious erudite and scientist decided that it would be great to add some wheels to his preferred working chair. The unintended result was probably the first proper “office chair” ever made by human hands.

That man was Charles Darwin and no, I am not joking. Surprise!

Office chairs were too comfortable for an office

When the “office chair” finally came to existence in a proper manner, by the hand of Thomas E. Warren, American inventor, it was deemed “too comfortable” by European employers, who feared it would lead to less productivity. It only had like armrests and some padding, it wasn’t an executive chair. History (and science) have happily proven those people wrong: a comfortable chair means you work better, longer, and happier.

There are more than 5 kinds of office chairs

Office chair can be an umbrella term to designate a wide variety of chair designs, comprised into seven easy to remember categories (ok, may be not so much): Task chairs, executive chairs, draughtsman chairs, ISO chairs, cantilever chairs, operator chairs, and ergonomic chairs. This classification is constantly changing, and some of these models are already too obsolete to be in production.

Otto von Bismarck helped develop the idea of an office chair

Remember how office chairs were just too comfortable to be used? Well the Chancellor of the 19th century German Empire didn’t think that was the case. He had a visionary approach to this type of seating, and he promoted its adoption by the emerging office spaces in Europe at the time, including his Parliament.

The quintessential office chair

The modern idea of an office chair could be considered an American invention. Charles and Ray Eames, a couple of American furniture designers, came up with the Aluminum Group of office chairs, which grew up to become one of the most copied and reproduced chair designs in the last half of the 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st. You can see it just about everywhere now.

Curious for more? Discover 5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Sitting at the Office or learn how to Stay Productive as well as 5 AIS Office Chairs to Buy in New York.

For more office spaces and interior design solutions, contact us and let us create healthier, more comfortable offices in Manhattan together.