A Brief History of Molded Plastic Chair Design

There is something about the molded plastic chair. Although criticized by some people as being hopelessly tacky, most could otherwise argue that the molded plastic chair is a piece of ubiquitous design; international, universal, utilitarian and effortlessly beautiful. Whatever your opinions may be, there is no denying that this is a classic chair. As Mariana Gosnell wrote for Smithsonian Magazine in 2004,

No matter what you’re doing, millions of other people around the world are likely sitting right now on a single-piece, jointless, all-plastic, all-weather, inexpensive, molded stacking chair. It may be the most popular chair in history.

The molded plastic chair, or the technically-named resin chair, was first experimented with in the post-war era. Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen were some of the first notable designers who sought to change the way America could live with the economic changes of the time; they looked to produce something that was not only aesthetically well designed, but also functional and affordable for the masses. The initial plastic chairs designed from the 1940s – 1950s period offered a segue towards where the style would soon develop. Up until this point, none of the chairs were fully independent from other materials such as fiberglass and metal, which would afterwards reinforce the mere plastic shell of the design. The classic Eames DSW Molded Plastic Chair and the iconic Saarinen Tulip Chair are two examples of the early plastic shell chairs first designed.

In the 1960s, improvements in technology paved way for the first single-form plastic chair. Verner Panton was the first to design a monobloc chair (a single piece of plastic shaped by injection molding), which would become the basis for the collective of plastic chairs we see today. The single long S curve of the Panton Chair, designed in 1968 by Verner Panton, is a well known symbol that kick-started the plastic revolution.

Panton Chair

Panton Chair Premium Reproduction by Rove Concepts

Numerous chairs have emerged since Panton’s design invention, from the reimagining of the original aluminum metal Navy Chair by Wilton Carlyle Dinges to completely new designs of furniture creation by the industries modern leading men. Get to know all of the molded plastic chair classics – fun fact, most of which are made from polypropylene plastic. The Compas Armchair by Patrick Norguet, the Bellini Chair by Mario Bellini and the Skin Chair by Archirivolto Design are just a few of the new chairs added to our collection of mid-century modern dining chairs.

Compas Armchair

Compas Arm Chair Premium Reproduction by Rove Concepts

Bellini Chair

Bellini Chair Premium Reproduction by Rove Concepts

 

Skin Chair

Skin Chair Premium Reproduction by Rove Concepts

Whether you think them the ugliest things to arrive in design, or a real modern breakthrough that deserves to be “chairished” for the generations in which they will last, there’s no doubt these plastic chairs have made an impact around the world.

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