Creatures of habit…
As a race, we humans certainly have our traits and we certainly know what we like when it comes to our food and drink. Our priorities may differ, but one thing we seem to have in common is that we all like to sit in our “own” chair.
There is something about having our “own” chair, something rather special. Whether you have been out shopping, walking the dog, visiting the family or getting home after a hard day’s work – we all seem to look forward to that time when everything is done and dusted and, at last, you can sit down and relax.
It can be quite a possessive thing – the door bell goes and friends come in and one of them sits in “your” chair. It’s not that you don’t want to give them a great welcome – it’s just that one of them has sat in “your” chair – crazy but that’s how some of us feel. For sure, they aren’t going to damage it and, for sure, it’s great to see them but they are sat in your chair and your chair is almost part of you!
So, what makes your own chair so special and why do you always sit in it?
There has to be only one real answer to that and that is it makes you feel comfortable.
So, what makes it comfortable?
There are many elements to that feeling and how it could be improved?
The seat height has to be right so you can sit down and stand up without straining – a good rule of thumb is that, with your shoes off, your thigh should be all but parallel with the seat height with your knee and calf at right angles to the floor. This takes the pressure off your back and knees, allowing muscles to relax. It can be quite a revelation to sit down in a chair with these attributes.
The seat cushion needs to be firm yet comfortable. There is nothing worse than sitting in a chair if the seat sags the moment you land. You are then faced with the struggle of getting up again which, for some of us, can be quite an effort – an effort we can well do without . A good quality foam seat cushion is the answer. Some manufacturers cut back on costs by using cheap foam – yes, they look great when they are new but after a few months they will “bottom out”, sag and look unsightly, but most of all they will not give your body the support and comfort it craves.
Our backs are funny things, so very important. When we were young, we never really paid any attention to folk saying that we should protect our backs – kids didn’t, as we all seemed to know better. But as we get older, we sometimes wish that we had paid more attention to our elders.
Back height and lumbar support are other key elements to ensuring we sit more comfortably. It goes without saying that a small person shouldn’t choose a chair with a really high back – what on earth would be the point? The back height should be based on the distance between the top of your head to the bottom of your spine. Any shorter will mean that you don’t get that all important upper body support. Then there is the lumbar area of your back – an area which may be strained when we lift something incorrectly or if we do work in the garden which our body isn’t used to. So a chair with a good lumbar support is what we are after. It neither needs to be too hard nor too soft – it should however, offer you support when seated so, when you stand up, you feel relaxed and refreshed.
If the television is boring us to death or if we have been going hell for leather, maybe it’s time to take a crafty and well earned nap? Those of us who have gone through the ordeal of long haul plane journeys, where you find yourself doing an impression of a nodding dog, will empathise with this – wouldn’t it have been great to have had some sort of support for your head so you could have a nice, well-earned kip after going through all the hassle involved with modern air travel and actually getting yourself on the plane?
There may be wings on planes but there certainly aren’t on their seats. However you can choose to have them on your chair! So if you are partial to taking forty winks, go for a chair with wings, relax, recharge and put the day behind you.
“Shut that door” was a catch phrase used by a celebrity some years ago – I often wondered why, but in hindsight he may well have been talking about draughts in his house. When choosing a chair, it’s a great idea to have one with filled in sides – that’s the area below the arms – so you don’t suffer the problem he clearly had!
Let’s go back to “support” for a moment. Your arms need support so your whole body can relax. Like the seat height, your forearm should be at right angles to your upper arm (biceps/triceps). Perhaps it’s better explained if you can imagine a child of say six, sitting in an armchair – their forearms are almost above their shoulders – this is not the position you need to be in. You need to be fully supported to be comfortable. If the chair has padded arms make sure that there is some good quality, supportive foam where your elbows are going to rest. Like the seat cushion, beware that some manufacturers cut back on quality foam here to save on cost – who is going to know? Well you do now!
One thing for sure is that chair styles have changed over the years. Out of interest you may like to know that the history of chairs started in Egypt where their chairs appear to have been made of great riches and splendour, fashioned in ebony and ivory or of carved or gilded wood. They were covered in costly materials and supported upon representations of the legs of beasts or the figures of captives. They believed chairs needed to represent natural forms to avoid creating chaos in the universe, by creating an artificial object. Perhaps a tad too strong for our tastes today!
Needless to say the style of chair has to suit your taste, your environment, your surroundings. Times have changed and gone are the days of the elderly sitting in tapestry covered chairs with Queen Anne legs. Let’s look at the facts – the generation which fought in Vietnam and other conflicts of that time wore jeans and T shirts – why on earth would they now want to sit in a chair like that?
Many though will now have the same “problems” their forbearers had and that is they are getting old. Granted there have been great advancements in medicine and healthcare but their bodies don’t work the same as they did then and the last thing they want to do is sit in a chair their “granny” had. They want style, they want colour, they want texture and they want up to the minute comfort.
High seat chairs really don’t need to look like high seat chairs! There is so much more to be had. Progressive companies have taken the view that the needs of the users are still the same but let’s dress the chair up and put some design into it so it will not look out of place in a modern environment.
There are so many chair styles now. High seat chairs with wings, some with filled in sides and arm extensions for gripping when sitting down or standing up, basic, modern looking frames with lots and lots of exposed wood left natural or lacquered in a colour of your choice – the list is almost endless. Whatever you do though, make sure the chair is stable and the frame is strong – the last thing you want is a chair which tips up or starts to rock (even though it’s not a rocking chair!) when you sit down.
Before we look at fabrics, let’s for a moment look at recline and rise chairs – you know, those are the ones which look like a chair until you press a button which makes them lift you to your feet or into the recline position? There are lots of these about. You see them in the paper, magazines and now even on some of the magic lantern channels. They wear so many hats too – rise and recline chairs, riser chairs, reclining chairs, riser recliners you name it, they call it! Beware though that all may not be quite what it seems.
Yes, if you are elderly it would be a real relief to have a chair which helps you to rise up from your seat. Also it would be very nice if you could put your feet up and relax or indeed fully recline for a sleep. You have, though, to be careful when it comes to making your choice. Remember those titbits of advice I gave regarding choosing a chair, well the same applies here but you need to take other things into consideration and I hope that this helps. Most of these models are electrically operated and they can be dangerous if not used correctly. If the chair is for you then you know your own state of mind and your limitations. If, however, the chair is for someone else – let’s say an elderly relative they may not have the way with all to operate the handset which may move the chair into a position they do not want to be in. Care at all times is the name of the game. There are two models which spring to mind – one is the Tilt in Space and the other Lift and Rise. The seat and the back on Tilt in Space is set at a right angle – the seat and back are one piece and don’t move during the movement of the chair. This is particularly useful for elderly people as, once reclined, they do not need to shuffle around to get comfortable. The Lift and Rise (sometimes called Riser Recliner) really does what it says on the can – yes, it lifts you to your feet and yes, it reclines but what happens in between? Both these models can be supplied with a single or twin motor. Single motors just recline or lift you out. Twin motors allow you to sit in the upright chair and raise your feet – rather than resting them on a separate pouffe – a handy thing to have. A final note on these chairs – beware of buying the cheaper ones – most of these will be from the Far East and sold by people who are just out to make a profit – it doesn’t matter to them if the chair is stuck in the reclined position or the footrest has snapped – they are not sitting in it! The phrase “Buy cheap, buy twice” springs to mind.
OK let’s have a look at fabrics.
There are loads to choose from but what’s best for you? Starting with the fabric first rather than its outward appearance let’s look at your options. Polyester or vinyl – don’t be put off by the word vinyl as there are some real smashers about now and gone are the days of that leatherette look fashioned in the sixties. Fire, yes fire or should I say fire retardancy has been much bantered about over the last few years – quite rightly so but if you don’t know, domestic upholstery is to a lower British Standard than that used in commercial environments. So, it makes sense to be additionally safe and go for coverings which are used in commercial environments if you can. Another thing to take into account is the “rub” test – called the Martidale abrasion test officially. In a nutshell a piece of fabric is rubbed and rubbed many thousands of times by a machine until it will rub no more i.e. it’s had its chips! To put that into perspective, ask to see the Martindale abrasion test and if it’s well over 40,000 rubs (that’s domestic) then go for it. A test of 100,000-120,000 is excellent and the fabric should last for many years to come.
Polyesters have come a long way. There are various surface feels to them ranging from velvet to linen, so it’s really down to you as to which one to go for. A point to note about these is that there are some which are antimicrobial and, indeed, waterproof however liquids can get into seating interiors by buttoning or stitching gaps. Vinyls have the same problem with liquids however some people say they are easier to clean by wiping if something gets spilt onto them.
So, when your “own” chair finally bites the dust, your partner has given you the ultimatum that it’s you or your chair or the dog has devoured the last piece of foam out of your seat, try to remember these snippets of advice so your new “own” chair becomes part of you.