Is This Seat Taken?

The other day, a request came in from the Tall Order Department: “We need the perfect office chair.” At first, I didn’t know whether to quote Quick Draw McGraw or Tonto. Then I thought it might be worth taking a crack at trying to find the perfect chair. After all, the customer is alway right, right? Maybe not.

My first attempt constituted a Google search on the phrase comfortable chairs. (I thought searching for perfect out of the gate might be shooting a little high.) That search returned 694,000,000 results. Okay. Next, I tried ergonomic chairs, which narrowed the field to just 65,300,000 results. And when I teed up lumbar support, I got a mere 7,700,000 hits. This turned out to be a tougher nut than I’d bargained for.

And it turned out I wasn’t the only one to try to crack it — not by a long shot. In fact, for all of his studies on evolution, Charles Darwin likely had no idea of the evolutionary line he became part of when he cobbled his own office chair in the 1840s.

Different Strokes

From this undertaking, I learned a number of lessons, each of them equally valuable, all of them equally predictable:

  1. Every body is different. I don’t mean everyone. I mean every body. The chair that suits mine may not suit yours. And so it goes.
  2. It’s out there. Based on the hundreds of millions of hits I found during my Google searches, I’m sure of this: If you want it, you can find it.
  3. There’s no accounting for taste. Grandpa O’Brien loved to say that. He also loved to celebrate the differences between us by saying, “That’s what makes horse racing.”

To summarize: There’s no right. There’s no wrong. There are only preferences. And every preference can be satisfied.

Try, Try Again

There are some things you can know: You prefer a certain style. You prefer a certain color. You prefer a certain fabric. You prefer a certain type of cushioning — or none. You prefer arms to armless. You know the environment in which the chair will be used and the purpose it will serve. But there are other things you can’t know until you have a seat.


That’s right. Find some chairs that appeal to you. Sit in them. No. I mean sit in them for a while. How do they feel? Is the seat comfortable? Is the back comfortable? Are the legs the right height? Do you feel any pressure points? Is the circulation in your arms or your legs affected? Are you sure? How many hours a day will you have to sit in that chair?


Choose Patiently

The popular admonition, of course, is choose wisely. In this case, patience equates to wisdom because if you’re not patient enough to determine how a chair really suits you, you’ll wish you’d been wise enough to spend more time in it. So, don’t rush. Given the amount of time you’re likely to spend working in any given chair, the time you spend being sure you’ve chosen the right one will pale in comparison.

Remember: There is no perfect chair. But if you try enough of them, you’ll find the perfect chair for you.

All photos compliments of Rouillard.

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