Our Favorite Vintage Office Chair Makers
When it comes to vintage office chairs, let’s be honest, it’s hard to know who’s really got your back. And maybe it’s just us, but when you consider that a vintage office chair is going to spend up to eight hours a day hugging your backside, you want it to be a chair you trust. Likewise, a vintage office chair that’s fine for the office—we’re looking at you style-less ergonomic chair with the heart of gold!—might not cut it in your carefully edited abode. What’s a working girl to do?
Well, for one, knowing the designers who specialize in vintage office chairs and desks is a must. In fact, a number of top designers that most associate solely with residential furniture actually specialized in complements to the water cooler at some point. Below, we’ve highlighted some our favorite used office chair makers, along with a roundup of their most iconic designs. Consider these secondhand office chairs our must-hires!
While American-based Knoll originally had plans to import furniture from Europe, WWII scrambled their plans and led to their rise as one of America’s leading furniture manufacturers. Throughout the Mid-Century, founders Hans Knoll and his wife Florence actively sought out emerging designers, including what are now marquee-worthy names like Eero Saarinen and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
While the company is, of course, recognizable for its additions to residential spaces (hello, Tulip Table!), Florence Knoll created Knoll’s Planning Unit, a committee that specialized in office space planning and yes, vintage office chairs. An acronym-heavy roster of clients included IBM, CBS, and GM. Likewise, Knoll employed a number of makers to design office furniture. Below are the Knoll designers who did it best.
Eero Saarinen’s Series 71 Chair: Introduced in 1950, the Saarinen Executive Armchair is notable for its swooping, bat-like shape and crescent back cut-out. Originally docked on stationary, antenna-like legs, this vintage office chair can now also be found with a swivel base. Regardless of which version you fall for, its pod-like shape cradles the body, ensuring that feeling overworked is a thing of the past.
Max Pearson Executive Chair: Following Eero Saarinen, it was Max Pearson’s secretarial chair that assumed the role of the Planning Unit’s standard task chair, and in 1966 Pearson introduced his own version of the executive chair. Featuring a sculpted, womb-like shape, inset cushions, and a stainless swivel base, the chair can frequently be found upholstered in popsicle-right colors. Consider this one a plush, futuristic take on the boss’s chair.
Charles Pollock Executive Chair: A curved, shell-like seat makes you the pearl in the oyster that is Charles Pollock’s Executive Chair. A molded seat offers up supreme comfort, while an upholstered lining provides a pop of color on the chair front. An aluminum rim and tufting on the upholstery are extra glamorous rifts that finish the look.
We love any company that promotes a workday full of Margaritaville color. Founded in 1912, Steelcase began experimenting with color early on, introducing office sets in colors like flame, cordovan (that’s a burgundy rose), and bamboo in the 1950s. Meanwhile, installations in famed office buildings like Frank Lloyd Wright’s S.C. Johnson Wax Building in Wisconsin and Chicago’s Sears Tower bolstered their office cred.
430 Chair: While Steelcase has continued to innovate the office chair into the new millennium, it’s their original 430 Chair, introduced in 1974, that still captivates us most. Identifiable by the tagline “The chair that loves people,” the 430 was a precursor to the ergonomic chairs that dominate the market today. While the chair’s focus was comfort contouring, we can’t get over the bold colored upholstery they sport. Indeed, this chair is a literal manifestation of how 4:30 on a Friday feels.
If you already associated Herman Miller with office furniture because of their omnipresent molded fiberglass Eames chair, consider us impressed. While the standard, molded Eames chairs are part of the brand’s residential lines, they do, of course, work perfectly when paired up with a plank-style desk. If the standard Eames chair isn’t your style; however, don’t fret—no one does the vintage office chair quite like Herman Miller.
Eames Soft Pad Lounger: In the 1950s, following the success of their molded chairs, Ray and Charles Eames were challenged to design outdoor seating. The result was the Aluminum Group series. While the chair from that series, the Aluminum Group Chair, features a long, languid caterpillar profile (complete with segmented upholstery), the Soft Pad Lounger comes off like its more-buttoned, polished-up cousin. With a slightly straighter sit and wider segments that appear to have been pumped full of air, these chairs absolutely exude comfort. And when it comes to the grind, who doesn’t want that?