Chair (furniture)

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Chairs carved from walnut, central parts of the backrests based on English models (Hepplewhite); Josephine, end of 18th century

A chair (in Austria often chair ) is executed in many varieties seat furniture for (usually) a person, which is usually made of a pedestal, a simple or padded composed seat and a backrest and from the simple stool without a back and the upholstered armchair . The ideal seat height for most adults is 42–48 cm. Special forms include folding and folding chairs , the rocking chair and the knee chair . The manufacture of chair furniture was the responsibility of the chairmaker profession until the 20th century .


The word chair - Old High German stuol 'seat, throne' (8th century), Middle High German stuol (also ' Stuhlgang '), Old Saxon / Middle Low German stōl , Middle Dutch / Dutch stoel , Old English stōl , English stool , Old Norse stōll , Swedish stol , Gothic stōls (Germanic * stōla- ) and Lithuanian pastõlas 'frame, stand', Old Slavic stolъ 'seat, throne', Russian stol (стол) 'table, meal, office, tsar's throne ' - is with an L suffix to the Indo-European root * stā-, * stǝ- 'stand, put' formed.

Based on a meaning 'frame' (preserved in roof , bell , elevator , loom ), the expression in Germanic develops into the designation for 'high seat, seat of honor, throne ' (of a ruler, judge etc. - see also chair , Chairman or holy see ).

History of sitting

Triple chair

Originally people sat on the bare ground, on rocks or on fallen tree trunks; In colder regions, animal skins were placed under them, mats were woven, blankets were woven or carpets were knotted . In some cultures in Africa and Asia, people sat in a kind of "squatting position" for a long time, as they do today.

In ancient Egypt, only the pharaohs , the kings of the Near East or the emperors of China sat or were enthroned on stone or wooden chairs as a symbol of their status of power. In simpler circles, only simple craft stools with a woven seat bed were known - if at all.

The forerunner of the board chair can be seen in the first half of the second millennium BC. Work stool with three pegged legs that appeared in Egypt. But also from higher social classes around 1400 BC. Three-legged stool used. From Egypt, the three-legged stool spread to other cultures such as those of ancient Greece and Rome. Roman depictions show the development of a four-legged variant with a square seat. Until the Middle Ages, however, the stool with pegged feet was mostly a seat for the lower social classes.

The seated posture continued to spread, beginning with the thrones of kings and princes, in places of secular and spiritual power, in royal houses and monasteries (e.g. on wooden benches in knight halls or on stone benches in chapter rooms ). However, individual chairs were reserved for high-ranking people.

As a result, from around the 16th century, the practice of sitting on chairs was adopted by the growing bourgeoisie or by landlords. Only from 18./19. In the 19th century, sitting on chairs gradually became the norm in large sections of the population, although for a long time a distinction was made between an armchair reserved for the landlord and simple seating (benches, stools, etc.) for other family members or even for servants.

Layout and function

The normal or simple chair today usually consists of the four chair legs, the seat and the backrest. However, it is not only their function that is decisive, but also their quality. Play here u. a. The assembly of the chair feet, the material, the chair springs and the upholstery play a decisive role in terms of durability.

Both the chair legs and the seat and backrest can be of low or high quality. A high-quality chair can last a lifetime, while a lower-quality chair that looks exactly the same may have a defective upholstery or a broken chair leg after a year. Chairs with inferior, too sharp-edged chair feet can also destroy the carpet on which they stand.

As a result, choosing the right chair is a demanding task, especially for overweight people and people with disabilities. It should be noted that chairs, with the exception of children's chairs and custom-made chairs, are generally not designed for all weight classes.

A cushion cushions the chair; for this purpose, so-called zigzag springs are often used, which make the entire upholstery elastic downwards and thus contribute to even weight distribution. In addition, there are also springs on it, which prevent the seated person from pushing the cushion up to the level of the frame.

If you only see a grate on which the upholstery rests after turning the chair, this chair is of poor quality, provided that no springs are attached to the grate. If you can only make out a plywood board, it is very likely that the manufacturer is only relying on the filling of the upholstery. The load placed on a chair is different from that on a pillow - a similar structure therefore clearly counteracts the sustainability of the chair.

Nowadays, materials such as aluminum and steel have proven their worth for chair construction, as many of the disadvantages of wood are avoided here, see also wood protection . Nevertheless, chairs made from these materials often appear colder and more uncomfortable than wooden chairs.

An alternative to metals is pockwood , as it is naturally very resistant to wear and tear, fungi, insects and weathering and does not need to be post-treated. The carpenters install this, due to the higher effort and costs, but more for themselves, for individual orders or as part of the master's examination.

Chairs (right), upholstered chairs (left) and an armchair (center) in the Museum of Local History in Sanok , Poland

(German) standards for chair design and safety

  • DIN EN 1335 office furniture - office work chair
  • DIN EN 1728 Furniture - Seating furniture - Test method for determining the strength and durability
  • DIN 68878 chairs for the living area - functional properties - requirements and test methods

Expediency and status symbol

For the equipment of catering establishments and public facilities, flexible seating for different numbers of visitors is important, also for private individuals with outdoor seating. It is important that the chairs can be stacked so that the storage space remains small when not in use.

Chairs also serve as a status symbol . In an office, an “executive chair” often immediately stands out due to the scope, size, exclusivity of the armrests , the suggested aura of heaviness, immovability, etc. Charlie Chaplin built on this in his film The Great Dictator , with Adenoid Hynkel trying to receive Benzino Napoloni in an exaggeratedly small chair in an exaggerated giant armchair at an oversized desk.


To protect valuable chairs from dirt and wear and tear, to enhance the appearance and standardize different models, as well as for interior design, chairs are occasionally covered with decorative fabric. The technical term for such furniture covers is called Husse (from French la housse = "cover, cover, cover, protective cover").

Other types of chairs

Wooden block chairs from the church of Santa Maria de la Tossa de Montbui , Province of Barcelona

According to the construction

According to the function

Design classics

See also


  • Hermann Brauer: The making of a chair. In: Communications of the Württemberg Arts and Crafts Association , 2nd year 1903–1904, pp. 60–64 ( digitized version ).
  • Hansjürgen Bulkowski: love of the matter. The things we live with. Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2010 (therein pp. 103-107 “Stuhl”).
  • Klára K. Csilléry: On the history of the board chair: A socio-cultural investigation. Editorially revised by Hans Dünninger. In: Yearbook for Folklore , New Series, 10, 1987, pp. 216–240.
  • Hajo Eickhoff: Heavenly throne and rocking chair. The story of sitting. Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich / Vienna 1993.
  • Charlotte J. Fiell, Peter M. Fiell: 1000 Chairs. Taschen Verlag, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-8228-5760-2 .

Web links

Commons : chair  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: chair  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Armchair  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Pfeifer : Etymological Dictionary of German. 5th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), Munich 2000, p. 1386.
  2. Klára K. Csilléry: On the history of the board chair. 1987, pp. 216-219.