Humans have grown and so have our chairs
After the debut of the Plastic Armchair (A-shell) and Plastic Side Chair (S-shell) at the ‘Low-Cost Furniture Design’ competition organised by the MoMA in 1948, the Eames Plastic Chairs were launched on the market in 1950 as the very first mass-produced plastic chairs in the history of furniture.
A lift in seat height of a mere 20mm may not seem like much, but this reflects an average worldwide human height increase of 10cm since the introduction of the chairs just 60 years ago. This is not an evolutionary change; 60 years is not long enough for natural selection to take effect. Instead most geneticists believe that improved childhood nutrition has been the main factor in allowing humans to increase in height (thanks to ScientificAmerican.com ). Interestingly, during World Wars I and II, when hunger was rife amongst the German civilian population, children’s heights actually declined, recovering only during the post-war years.
Clearly the modification of the Eames chair was made necessary because of its static base. Nevertheless this got us thinking: how much has this (relatively) sudden growth spurt affected the way we design our workplaces and the equipment therein? Well, with the emergence of an unprecedented four-generation workforce soon to become the norm, there are bound to be wide variations in a) heights b) working styles c) coffee preference (come on, we all know coffee is important in the workplace). So we delved into our furniture catalogues for those products best placed to cater for everyone from baby-boomers to Gen-Z (+10cm) and everyone in between. Here are a select few adjustable products that might just surprise you.
Happily the Sit/Stand desk is becoming more prevalent in the workplace (and rightly so). But did you know you can now tick the ergonomics box whilst achieving a nostalgic “Mad Men” look too? The new One Collection from BOLD adds the height-adjust function to a double-pedestal desk. So if you’re after a more traditional or “executive” look, this might just be the desk for you.
Most task seating is fully adjustable these days, but once we get the settings right many of us stay put for hours on end. Buoy from Steelcase aims to put a stop to that. As part of their “Active Seating” range Buoy is fully height adjustable (to the tune of five and a half inches), and its curved base lets you tilt, swivel, and move, engaging your core and encouraging a more active posture.
If you would love to achieve Sit/stand nirvana but haven’t the budget for the full desk solution then behold the QuickStand by Humanscale. More than just a monitor arm, this is a retro-fit item that turns any fixed-height desk into an active one.
Finally (and for a bit of fun) : have you heard of the TopBrewer by Scanomat? This product has absolutely nothing to do with height adjustability, but does cater for every coffee preference going. The machine is controlled by an app (of course it is) in which users can order their coffee to perfection : no more crummy instant drinks and no more falling out over who makes the best!