Chairs

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Thinking Man's Chair

1986

Prototyped for an exhibition of chairs in Japan, with handwritten dimensions.

What was the brief that you set yourself in designing the Thinking Man’s Chair?
I saw an antique chair with its seat cushion removed for repair. It looked more interesting without the cushion and I decided to try to design a chair which was all structure and no closed surfaces.

Are there any clear inspirations for the chair?
Not really, it evolved through hundreds of sketches.

How did you decide on the materials and why both tubular and strip steel?
I wanted to have flatter areas for body contact and round ones for the main structure. The small discs on the ends of the arms came a bit later in the process.

Where were the first pieces produced and by whom?
I found a metal worker in North London (Kentish Town) who could make them for me. It’s quite complicated to make it well as it needs to be held in position while welding the different elements together.

How was the colour applied? And how was the colour decided?
I used a red oxide rust-proofing paint for the first ones. I liked the idea that the paint itself was functional rather than decorative. The very first one, which belongs to the boss of Seiko department store, was hand-sprayed by me, and when I finished spraying I thought it looked a bit raw, so I added the dimensions in chalk and sealed them with hairspray.

Where did Giulio Cappellini first see the chair and how did he contact you about putting it in production?
I think Giulio would probably have seen it in my first article in Domus which came out in 1988. He came to visit me in London soon after.

How did the design change with Cappellini manufacturing it?
It didn’t change.

How many parts make up the chair?
About 22, I think.

Answers by Jasper Morrison