cover image Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History

Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History

Witold Rybczynski. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-3742-2321-2

The humble chair conceals a surprising amount of world history, sociology, and art in its deceptively simple design, according to design and architecture critic Rybczynski (Mysteries of the Mall). This detailed and comprehensive history of the chair begins by asking why certain cultures sit in chairs at all. Looking at seats, from a stool used in China in the second century C.E. to Charles and Ray Eames’s now-famous 1950 plastic shell chair, Rybczynski studies the base materials and innumerable innovative techniques that designers, furniture makers, and architects have applied to the chairs that people so often take for granted. He discusses dozens of different varieties of chairs, including the curved-leg Greek klismos, the classic Chippendale wing chair, the BarcaLounger, and the world’s most ubiquitous chair: the white plastic monobloc (one-piece) patteo chair, which is cheap and remarkably versatile and adapts to almost any environment or culture. Rybczynski’s relentless curiosity is easily transferred to the reader as he astutely zeroes in on the details of what makes a chair design special or significant. This latest contribution from Rybczynski serves as further evidence that he is one of the best writers on design working today. (Aug.)