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On the concenpt of "comfort" and Danish design

Interior design
- 17 Jan 2018 -
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Interior design

Dear All,

what do you think on the concept of comfort in furniture, e.g. related to chairs and couches of the mid-century period? Was comfort considered important during design?

I think it's a major challenge to design a piece that is comfortable and beautiful at the same time. The chairs or armchairs I like most are certainly not a place where I would relax after a though day.




- 17 Jan 2018

Very subjective question. Soul-searching, Ernest? Why do you like the things you like?

Generally, "comfort", in quotes, that is, can be realistically defined as lowest-common-denominator, medium-soft, slightly extended seating for visually illiterate, middle-class, television-watching fat people.

We measure things using our own learned scales.. In my case, preferences are often deliberately in opposition to mainstream "comfort" norms. Socioeconomic position, education, and neuroticism are factors..

- 18 Jan 2018

Of course comfort was a factor. Bear in mind that comfort for a piece of furniture you touch for two minutes will be different than for something you lie on for 8 hours. I don’t believe that families had fully absorbed the idea that a sofa might be slept upon for 8 hours, so some designs tended not to be so conducive to that. Others are superbly comfortable.

The Danes very frequently were meticulous in designing to the human form though and that makes a big difference. The designers from other countries often seemed not so interested in such things.

- 18 Jan 2018

I often make that little joke when selling chairs-- 'This chair has *actually* (gasp) been designed for the human form...' It's like Le Corbusier's big epiphany in Modulor-- shit for people should be made people-sized! Like wow, man!

I don't think overwrought meticulousness is necessary or even necessarily desirable, though-- so much of interior design is just common sense, and then we muck it up with technology and social aspiration and vanity and fear. And with the Joneses not just next door but on people's phones bookmarked to pin***est etc., perceptions of comfort are that much more easily mis-colored through our projected impressions of how comfortable we hope we appear when viewed through social media lenses by our peers. Physical comfort doesn't really require more than a warm place, a floor covering, a blanket, a pillow, and a book. But then we get all high-horse and decide we need chairs and things. Reclining chairs with USB ports and a dozen or so buttons to adjust 'comfort' are popular now. I sit in such chairs and ponder humanity's doom. Then again, I also sit in my stupid Eames chairs and ponder humanity's doom. I'm actually an optimist, though. I think there are always really simple things we can do to become more comfortable. Chairs can be great, but they're still just chairs. Like on Car Talk where once in a while they talk about 'it's just a car'. Oh, irony.

- 18 Jan 2018

I am not sure if I can follow you, Earnest. Do you mean that your favorite danish furniture is not comfy enough? Well. If so, rest assured that most if not all of the danish designers at least up to the early sixties had been obsessed with measuring the human body and adjusting their designs to these measurements. So yes, they are comfortable and this can be taken as a general rule. But of course, two things have changed since then: The size of the human body and the way we live. If a chair was made for a 1,65 meter person it may be less comfotable today for a noticably taller person. And in the 50s, people used to sit rather then to lie on a sofa. Whether two people sit next to each other chitchatting over a cup of tea or one person sprawls on the same sofa with remote in hand, that makes a big difference.

- 18 Jan 2018

I think you are right, Herringbone. The way we sit on a couch has changed over the last 60 years. Now there is a need for a rest for the head, which is very often not present in many beautiful Danish pieces. I think it certainly remains a challenge for modern design to combine the need for good design and the concept of comfort or relax.

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