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Vincent's Chair by Vincent van Gogh

A chair is a raised surface used to sit on, commonly for use by one person. Chairs often have the seat raised above floor level, supported by four legs. A chair without a back or arm rests is a stool, or when raised up, a bar stool. A chair with arms is an armchair and with folding action and inclining footrest, a recliner. A permanently fixed chair in a train or theater is a seat or airline seat; when riding, it is a saddle and bicycle saddle, and for an automobile, a car seat or infant car seat. With wheels it is a wheelchair and when hung from above, a swing.

The design may be made of porous materials, or be drilled with holes for decoration; a low back or gaps can provide ventilation. The back may extend above the height of the occupant's head, which can optionally contain a headrest.

A chair for more than one person is a couch, sofa, settee, or "loveseat"; or a bench. A separate footrest for a chair is known as an ottoman, hassock or pouffe.

Contents

History of the chair

Early twentieth century chair made in eastern Australia, with strong heraldic embellishment

The chair is of extreme antiquity and simplicity, although for many centuries and indeed for thousands of years it was an article of state and dignity rather than an article of ordinary use. "The chair" is still extensively used as the emblem of authority in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom and Canada, and in many other settings. Committees, boards of directors, and academic departments all have a 'chairman'. Endowed professorships are referred to as chairs. It was not, in fact, until the 16th century that it became common anywhere. The chest, the bench and the stool were until then the ordinary seats of everyday life, and the number of chairs which have survived from an earlier date is exceedingly limited; most of such examples are of ecclesiastical or seigneurial origin. Our knowledge of the chairs of remote antiquity is derived almost entirely from monuments, sculpture and paintings. A few actual examples exist in the British Museum, in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo, and elsewhere.

In ancient Egypt chairs appear to have been of great richness and splendor[citation needed]. Fashioned of ebony and ivory, or of carved and gilded wood, they were covered with costly materials, magnificent patterns and supported upon representations of the legs of beasts or the figures of captives. The earliest known form of Greek chair, going back to five or six centuries BCE, had a back but stood straight up, front and back. During Tang dynasty (618 - 907 AD), a higher seat first started to appear amongst the Chinese elite and their usage soon spread to all levels of society. By the 12th century seating on the floor was rare in China, unlike in other Asian countries where the custom continued, and the chair, or more commonly the stool, was used in the vast majority of houses throughout the country.

In Europe, it was owing in great measure to the Renaissance that the chair ceased to be a privilege of state, and became a standard item of furniture for anyone who could afford to buy it. Once the idea of privilege faded the chair speedily came into general use. We find almost at once that the chair began to change every few years to reflect the fashions of the hour.

The 20th century saw an increasing use of technology in chair construction with such things as all-metal folding chairs, metal-legged chairs, the Slumber Chair, moulded plastic chairs and ergonomic chairs. The recliner became a popular form, at least in part due to radio and television, and later a two-part. The modern movement of the 1960s produced new forms of chairs: the butterfly chair, bean bags, and the egg-shaped pod chair. Technological advances led to molded plywood and wood laminate chairs, as well as chairs made of leather or polymers. Mechanical technology incorporated into the chair enabled adjustable chairs, especially for office use. Motors embedded in the chair resulted in massage chairs.

Design and ergonomics

S Chair, Designed by Verner Panton

Chair design considers intended usage, ergonomics (how comfortable it is for the occupant), as well as non-ergonomic functional requirements such as size, stackability, foldability, weight, durability, stain resistance and artistic design. Intended usage determines the desired seating position. "Task chairs", or any chair KOyla is a spactic and a moronic lunaticintended for people to work at a desk or table, including dining chairs, can only recline very slightly; otherwise the occupant is too far away from the desk or table. Dental chairs are necessarily reclined. Easy chairs for watching television or movies are somewhere in between depending on the height of the screen.

Ergonomic design distributes the weight of the occupant to various parts of the body. A seat that is higher results in dangling feet and increased pressure on the underside of the knees ("popliteal fold"). It may also result in no weight on the feet which means more weight elsewhere. A lower seat may shift too much weight to the "seat bones" ("ischial tuberosities").

A reclining seat and back will shift weight to the occupant's back. This may be more comfortable for some in reducing weight on the seat area, but may be problematic for others who have bad backs. In general, if the occupant is supposed to sit for a long time, weight needs to be taken off the seat area and thus "easy" chairs intended for long periods of sitting are generally at least slightly reclined. However, reclining may not be suitable for chairs intended for work or eating at table.

The back of the chair will support some of the weight of the occupant, reducing the weight on other parts of the body. In general, backrests come in three heights: Lower back backrests support only the lumbar region. Shoulder height backrests support the entire back and shoulders. Headrests support the head as well and are important in vehicles for preventing "whiplash" neck injuries in rear-end collisions where the head is jerked back suddenly. Reclining chairs typically have at least shoulder height backrests to shift weight to the shoulders instead of just the lower back.

The Difference between Leg Room & Seat Pitch

Some chairs have foot rests. A stool or other simple chair may have a simple straight or curved bar near the bottom for the sitter to place his or her feet on.

Some chairs have two curved bands of wood (also known as rockers) attached to the bottom of the legs. They are called rocking chairs.

A kneeling chair adds an additional body part, the knees, to support the weight of the body. A sit-stand chair distributes most of the weight of the occupant to the feet. Many chairs are padded or have cushions. Padding can be on the seat of the chair only, on the seat and back, or also on any arm rests and/or foot rest the chair may have. Padding will not shift the weight to different parts of the body (unless the chair is so soft that the shape is altered). However, padding does distribute the weight by increasing the area of contact between the chair and the body. A hard wood chair feels hard because the contact point between the occupant and the chair is small. The same body weight over a smaller area means greater pressure on that area. Spreading the area reduces the pressure at any given point. In lieu of padding, flexible materials, such as wicker, may be used instead with similar effects of distributing the weight. Since most of the body weight is supported in the back of the seat, padding there should be firmer than the front of the seat which only has the weight of the legs to support. Chairs that have padding that is the same density front and back will feel soft in the back area and hard to the underside of the knees.

There may be cases where padding is not desirable. For example, in chairs that are intended primarily for outdoor use. Where padding is not desirable, contouring may be used instead. A contoured seat pan attempts to distribute weight without padding. By matching the shape of the occupant's buttocks, weight is distributed and maximum pressure is reduced.

Churchchairs

Actual chair dimensions are determined by measurements of the human body or anthropometric measurements. The two most relevant anthropometric measurement for chair design is the popliteal height and buttock popliteal length.

For someone seated, the popliteal height is the distance from the underside of the foot to the underside of the thigh at the knees. It is sometimes called the "stool height." The term "sitting height" is reserved for the height to the top of the head when seated. For American men, the median popliteal height is 16.3 inches and for American women it is 15.0 inches [1]. The popliteal height, after adjusting for heels, clothing and other issues is used to determine the height of the chair seat. Mass produced chairs are typically 17 inches high.

For someone seated, the buttock popliteal length is the horizontal distance from the back most part of the buttocks to the back of the lower leg. This anthropometric measurement is used to determine the seat depth. Mass produced chairs are typically 15-17 inches deep.

Additional anthropometric measurements may be relevant to designing a chair. Hip breadth is used for chair width and armrest width. Elbow rest height is used to determine the height of the armrests. The buttock-knee length is used to determine "leg room" between rows of chairs. "Seat pitch" is the distance between rows of seats. In some airplanes and stadiums the leg room (the seat pitch less the thickness of the seat at thigh level) is so small that it is sometimes insufficient for the average person.

For adjustable chairs, such as an office chair, the aforementioned principles are applied in adjusting the chair to the individual occupant.

Armrests

A chair may or may not have armrests; chairs with armrests are termed armchairs. In French, a distinction is made between fauteuil and chaise, the terms for chairs with and without armrests, respectively. If present, armrests will support part of the body weight through the arms if the arms are resting on the armrests. Armrests further have the function of making entry and exit from the chair easier (but from the side it becomes more difficult). Armrests should support the forearm and not the sensitive elbow area. Hence in some chair designs, the armrest is not continuous to the chair back, but is missing in the elbow area.

A couch, bench, or other arrangement of seats next to each other may have armrest at the sides and/or arm rests in between. The latter may be provided for comfort, but also for privacy e.g. in public transport and other public places, and to prevent lying on the bench. Arm rests reduce both desired and undesired proximity. A loveseat in particular, has no armrest in between.

See also seats in movie theaters, and pictures of benches with and without arm rests.

Chair seats

Polypropylene (molded plastic) seats and stainless steel legs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This type of material is very useful in sea regions

Chair seats vary widely in construction and may or may not match construction of the chair's back (backrest).

Some systems include:

  • center seats where a solid material forms the chair seat.
    • Solid wood, may or may not be shaped to human contours.
    • Wood slats, often seen on outdoor chairs
    • Padded leather, generally a flat wood base covered in padding and contained in soft leather
    • Stuffed fabric, similar to padded leather
    • Metal seats of solid or open design
    • Molded plastic
    • Stone, often marble
  • Open center seats where a soft material is attached to the tops of chair legs or between stretchers to form the seat.
    • Wicker, woven to provide a surface with give to it
    • Leather, may be tooled with a design
    • Fabric, simple covering without support
    • Tape, wide fabric tape woven into seat, seen in lawn chairs and some old chairs
    • Caning, woven from rush, reed, rawhide, heavy paper, strong grasses, cattails to form the seat, often in elaborate patterns
    • Splint, ash, oak or hickory strips are woven
    • Metal, Metal mesh or wire woven to form seat

Standards and specifications

Highly decorated carved-back chairs in Mexico

Design considerations for chairs have been codified into standards. ISO 9241, "Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs) -- Part 5: Workstation layout and postural requirements" is the most common one for modern chair design.

There are multiple specific standards for different types of chairs. Dental chairs are specified by ISO 6875. Bean bag chairs are specified by ANSI standard ASTM F1912-98 [2]. ISO 7174 specifies stability of rocking and tilting chairs. ASTM F1858-98 specifies plastic lawn chairs. ASTM E1822-02b defines the combustibility of chairs when they are stacked.

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA)[3] defines BIFMA X5.1 for testing of commercial-grade chairs. It specifies things like [4]:

  • chair back strength of 150 pounds (68 kg)
  • chair stability if weight is transferred completely to the front or back legs
  • leg strength of 75 pounds (34 kg) applied one inch (25 mm) from the bottom of the leg
  • seat strength of 225 pounds (102 kg) dropped from six inches (150 mm) above the seat
  • seat cycle strength of 100,000 repetitions of 125 pounds (57 kg) dropped from 2 inches (50 mm) above the seat

The specification further defines heavier "proof" loads that chairs must withstand. Under these higher loads, the chair may be damaged, but it must not fail catastrophically.

Large institutions that make bulk purchases will reference these standards within their own even more detailed criteria for purchase. [5] Governments will often issue standards for purchases by government agencies (e.g. Canada's Canadian General Standards Board CAN/CGSB 44.15M [6] on "Straight Stacking Chair, Steel" or CAN/CGSB 44.232-2002 on "Task Chairs for Office Work with Visual Display Terminal").

Chairs may be rated by the length of time that they may be used comfortably — an 8-hour chair, a 24-hour chair, and so on. Such chairs are specified for tasks which require extended periods of sitting, such as for receptionists or supervisors of a control panel.

Accessories

AISI 304 stainless steel Laboratorie chair with gas springs and caster wheels. A specific type of chair for professional use

In place of a built-in footrest, some chairs come with a matching ottoman. An ottoman is a short stool intended to be used as a footrest but can sometimes be used as a stool. If matched to a glider, the ottoman may be mounted on swing arms so that the ottoman rocks back and forth with the main glider.

A chair cover is a temporary fabric cover for a side chair. They are typically rented for formal events such as wedding receptions to increase the attractiveness of the chairs and decor. The chair covers may come with decorative chair ties, a ribbon to be tied as a bow behind the chair. Covers for sofas and couches are also available for homes with small children and pets. In the second half of 20th century, some people used custom clear plastic covers for expensive sofas and chairs to protect them.

Chair pads are cushions for chairs. Some are decorative. In cars, they may be used to increase the height of the driver. Orthopedic backrests provide support for the back. Some manufacturers have patents on their designs and are recognized by medical associations as beneficial [7][8][9]. Car seats sometimes have built-in and adjustable lumbar supports.

Chair mats are plastic mats meant to cover carpet. This allows chairs on wheels to roll easily over the carpet and it protects the carpet. They come in various shapes, some specifically sized to fit partially under a desk.

Remote control bags can be draped over the arm of easy chairs or sofas and used to hold remote controls. They are counter-weighted so as to not slide off the arms under the weight of the remote control.

Chair glides are attached to the feet of chairs to prevent them from scratching or snagging on the floor.

Caster wheels are attached to the feet of chairs to give more mobility

Gas springs are attached to the body of the chair in order to give height adjustment and more comfort to the user

The Twelve Chairs monument in Odessa - Deribassovskaya street (Ukraine).

English phrases relating to chairs

  • A film or a story is said to keep you on the edge of your seat, if it is suspenseful or engaging.
  • If you nearly fell off your chair, it was because you were very surprised.
  • When English-speaking philosophers talk about the material world as opposed to ideas, their phrase is tables and chairs.
  • An orchestra awards a musician a chair or seat based on ability. The best player (in a particular section)will receive "first chair", or the "principal seat". It is also common for this position to be known as 'first stand', a reference to the portable lectern on which the musicians put their sheet music.However, the person who is first chair in the first violin section is usually referred to as the concertmaster in the USA or leader in the UK.
  • Musical chairs is a common party game, and a colloquial expression to describe people shuffling from seat to seat, or around different locations.
  • In American slang, to say someone has gotten "the chair" is to say that they have been executed by an electric chair.
  • One who is extremely anxious is 'as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs'.
  • To be on its last leg is an expression that stems from the practice of sawing the ends of chair legs off in previous centuries. It means that it is decrepit and nearing the end of its servicability.

See also

See List of chairs for an extended list of chair types, such as the bean bag chair, lift chair, papasan chair, sofa, swivel chair and throne.

References

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHAIR (in. Mid. Eng. chcere, through O. Fr. chaire or chaiere, from Lat. cathedra, later caledra, Gr. Ka%apa, seat, cf. "cathedral"; the modern Fr. form chaise, a chair, has been adopted in English with a particular meaning as a form of carriage; chaire in French is still used of a professorial or ecclesiastical "chair," or cathedra), a movable seat, usually with four legs, for a single person, the most varied and familiar article of domestic furniture. The chair is of extreme antiquity, although for many centuries and indeed for thousands of years it was an appanage of state and dignity rather than an article of ordinary use. "The chair" is still extensively used as the emblem of authority in the House of Commons and in public meetings. It was not, in fact, until the 16th century that it became common anywhere. The chest, the bench and the stool were until then the ordinary seats of everyday life, and the number of chairs which have survived from an earlier date is exceedingly limited; most of such examples are of ecclesiastical or seigneurial origin. Our knowledge of the chairs of remote antiquity is derived almost entirely from monuments, sculpture and paintings. A few actual examples exist in the British Museum, in the Egyptian museum at Cairo, and elsewhere. In ancient Egypt they appear to have been of great richness and splendour. Fashioned of ebony and ivory, or of carved and gilded wood, they were covered with costly stuffs and supported upon representations of the legs of beasts of the chase or the figures of captives. An arm-chair in fine preservation found in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings is astonishingly similar, even in small details, to that "Empire" style which followed Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. The earliest monuments of Nineveh repfesent a chair without a back but with tastefully carved legs ending in lions' claws or bulls' hoofs; others are supported by figures in the nature of caryatides or by animals. The earliest known form of Greek chair, going back to five or six centuries before Christ, had a back but stood straight up, front and back. On the frieze of the Parthenon Zeus occupies a square seat with a bar-back and thick turned legs; it is ornamented with winged sphinxes and the feet of beasts. The characteristic Roman chairs were of marble, also adorned with sphinxes; the curule chair was originally very similar in form to the modern folding chair, but eventually received a good deal of ornament.

The most famous of the very few chairs which have come down from a remote antiquity is the reputed chair of St Peter in St Peter's at Rome. The wooden portions are much decayed, but it would appear to be Byzantine work of the 6th century, and to be really an ancient sedia gestatoria. It has ivory carvings representing the labours of Hercules. A few pieces of an earlier oaken chair have been let in; the existing one, Gregorovius says, is of acacia wood. The legend that this was the curule chair of the senator Pudens is necessarily apocryphal. It is not, as is popularly supposed, enclosed in Bernini's bronze chair, but is kept under triple lock and exhibited only once in a century. Byzantium, like Greece and Rome, affected the curule form of chair, and in addition to lions' heads and winged figures of Victory and dolphin-shaped arms used also the lyre-back which has been made familiar by the pseudo-classical revival of the end of the 18th century. The chair of Maxim ian in the cathedral of Ravenna is believed to date from the middle of the 6th century. It is of marble, round, with a high back, and is carved in high relief with figures of saints and scenes from the Gospels - the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the flight into Egypt and the baptism of Christ. The smaller spaces are filled with carvings of animals, birds, flowers and foliated ornament. Another very ancient seat is the so-called "Chair of Dagobert" in the Louvre. It is of cast bronze, sharpened with the chisel and partially gilt; it is of the curule or faldstool type and supported upon legs terminating in the heads and feet of animals. The seat, which was probably of leather, has disappeared. Its attribution depends entirely upon the statement of Suger, abbot of St Denis in the 12th century, who added a back and arms. Its age has been much discussed, but Viollet-le-Duc dated it to early Merovingian times, and it may in any case be taken as the oldest faldstool in existence. To the same generic type belongs the famous abbots' chair of Glastonbury; such chairs might readily be taken to pieces when their owners travelled. The faldisterium in time acquired arms and a back, while retaining its folding shape. The most famous, as well as the most ancient, English chair is that made at the end of the 13th century for Edward I., in which most subsequent monarchs have been crowned. It is of an architectural type and of oak, and was covered with gilded gesso which long since disappeared.

Passing from these historic examples we find the chair monopolized by the ruler, lay or ecclesiastical, to a comparatively late date. As the seat of authority it stood at the head of the lord's table, on his dais, by the side of his bed. The seigneurial chair, commoner in France and the Netherlands than in England, is a very interesting type, approximating in many respects to the episcopal or abbatial throne or stall. It early acquired a very high back and sometimes had a canopy. Arms were invariable, and the lower part was closed in with panelled or carved front and sides - the seat, indeed, was often hinged and v. 26 sometimes closed with a key. That we are still said to sit "in" an arm-chair and "on" other kinds of chairs is a reminiscence of the time when the lord or seigneur sat "in his chair." These throne-like seats were always architectural in character, and as Gothic feeling waned took the distinctive characteristics of Renaissance work. It was owing in great measure to the Renaissance that the chair ceased to be an appanage of state, and became the customary companion of whomsoever could afford to buy it. Once the idea of privilege faded the chair speedily came into general use, and almost at once began to reflect the fashions of the hour. No piece of furniture has ever been so close an index to sumptuary changes. It has varied in size, shape and sturdiness with the fashion not only of women's dress but of men's also. Thus the chair which was not, even with its arms purposely suppressed, too ample during the several reigns of some form or other of hoops and farthingale, became monstrous when these protuberances disappeared. Again, the costly laced coats of the dandy of the 18th and early 19th centuries were so threatened by the ordinary form of seat that a "conversation chair" was devised, which enabled the buck and the ruffler to sit with his face to the back, his valuable tails hanging unimpeded over the front. The early chair almost invariably had arms, and it was not until towards the close of the 16th century that the smaller form grew common.

The majority of the chairs of all countries until the middle of the r 7th century were of oak without upholstery, and when it became customary to cushion them, leather was sometimes employed; subsequently velvet and silk were extensively used, and at a later period cheaper and often more durable materials. Leather was not infrequently used even for the costly and elaborate chairs of the faldstool form - occasionally sheathed in thin plates of silver - which Venice sent all over Europe. To this day, indeed, leather is one of the most frequently employed materials for chair covering. The outstanding characteristic of most chairs until the middle of the 17th century was massiveness and solidity. Being usually made of oak, they were of considerable weight, and it was not until the introduction of the handsome Louis XIII. chairs with cane backs and seats that either weight or solidity was reduced. Although English furniture derives so extensively from foreign and especially French and Italian models, the earlier forms of English chairs owed but little to exotic influences. This was especially the case down to the end of the Tudor period, after which France began to set her mark upon the British chair. The squat variety, with heavy and sombre back, carved like a piece of panelling, gave place to a taller, more slender, and more elegant form, in which the framework only was carved, and attempts were made at ornament in new directions. The stretcher especially offered opportunities which were not lost upon the cabinet-makers of the Restoration. From a mere uncompromising cross-bar intended to strengthen the construction it blossomed, almost suddenly, into an elaborate scroll-work or an exceedingly graceful semicircular ornament connecting all four legs, with a vase-shaped knob in the centre. The arms and legs of chairs of this period were scrolled, the splats of the back often showing a rich arrangement of spirals and scrolls. This most decorative of all types appears to have been popularized in England by the cavaliers who had been in exile with Charles II. and had become familiar with it in the north-western parts of the European continent. During he reign of William and Mary these charming forms degenerated into something much stiffer and more rectangular, with a solid, more or less fiddle-shaped splat and a cabriole leg with pad feet. The more ornamental examples had cane seats and ill-proportioned cane backs. From these forms was gradually developed the Chippendale chair, with its elaborately interlaced back, its graceful arms and square or cabriole legs, the latter terminating in the claw and ball or the pad foot. Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Adam all aimed at lightening the chair, which, even in the master hands of Chippendale, remained comparatively heavy. The endeavour succeeded, and the modern chair is everywhere comparatively slight. Chippendale and Hepplewhite between them determined what appears to be the final form of the chair, for since their time practically no new type has lasted, and in its main characteristics the chair of the 10th century is the direct derivative of that of the later 18th.

The 18th century was, indeed, the golden age of the chair, especially in France and England, between which there was considerable give and take of ideas. Even Diderot could not refrain from writing of them in his Encyclopedic. The typical Louis Seize chair, oval-backed and ample of seat, with descending arms and round-reeded legs, covered in Beauvais or some srich gay tapestry woven with Boucher or Watteau-like scenes, is a very gracious object, in which the period reached its high-water mark. The Empire brought in squat and squabby shapes, comfortable enough no doubt, but entirely destitute of inspiration. English Empire chairs were often heavier and more sombre than those of French design. Thenceforward the chair in all countries ceased to attract the artist. The art nouveau school has occasionally produced something of not unpleasing simplicity; but more often its efforts have been frankly ugly or even grotesque. There have been practically no novelties, with the exception perhaps of the basket-chair and such like, which have been made possible by modern command over material. So much, indeed, is the present indebted to the past in this matter that even the revolving chair, now so familiar in offices, has a pedigree of something like four centuries (see also SEDAN-CHAIR). (J. P.-B.)


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Simple English

A chair is a piece of furniture. It is used for sitting on. They usually have four legs to support the weight. Some types of chairs, such as the barstool, have only one leg in the center. Those chairs are usually able to spin.[needs proof] Sometimes chairs have armrests.There are many types of chairs such as windsor chairs and rocking chairs. There is another type of chair called a sofa or settee. This is often used for more than one person and comfortable.









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