Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A chair’s many faces

with 3 comments

Charles Eames chair

Even lightweight, well-designed chairs are inconvenient—because they are only designed for sitting in, and that is the very least of the things that happens to a chair. Most chairs are so little sat in that they could never justify themselves economically on that score.

Not only are they bought to be looked at as cult-objects, but they are also used for propping doors open or—in French farce—shut. They are used by cats, dogs, and small children for sleeping in; by adults as shoe-rests for polishing or lace-tying. They are used as stands for Karrikots and baby baths; as saw horses; as work benches for domestic trades as diverse as pea-shelling and wool winding; and as clothes hangers. If upholstered and sprung, they can be used for trampoline practice; if hard, as bongo drums. They are persistently employed as stepladders for fruit-picking, hedge-clipping, changing lamp bulbs and dusting cornices…

The more a chair is well-designed for sitting in, the less use it is the other 95 percent of the time…If rational inquiry were to prevail, it would show that chairs are simply detached units of a commonwealth of horizontal surfaces on which any number of objects, including the human fundament, can be parked.

Reyner Banham

Written by nevalalee

March 30, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

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3 Responses

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  1. I enjoy reading about objects tied tightly into our lives yet, so often these objects are rarely given their due credit. We’d be uncivilized without our chairs. Artful chairs though beautiful are weak in character. It’s the everyday chair that can call itself mankind’s best friend.
    neat blog you have here, thanks for sharing

    March 30, 2014 at 5:51 pm

  2. So sometimes it is better to do multiple jobs adequately rather than one job really well (chair) and sometimes it is not (parachute).


    March 30, 2014 at 11:00 pm

  3. @AnnMarie: Thanks so much!

    @Darren: Speaking roughly, I’d say that a novel is more like a chair, a poem like a parachute—although a parachute that can also be used for playground games.


    March 31, 2014 at 7:46 am

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