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What makes a perfect ergonomic chair? We sat down on a lot in Singapore

New year, new chair for the home office? CNA Luxury’s intrepid writer Daven Wu went on the hunt while dodging unpronounceable Nordic names.

What makes a perfect ergonomic chair? We sat down on a lot in Singapore

The structure of the Vitra Physix chair is based on the idea of creating a continuous seat shell by stretching a single textile panel between two side members. (Photo: Vitra)

What about the Jarvfljallet, asked the nice sales assistant at IKEA. I stared at her, my tired brain trying to unravel the jumbled consonants and umlauts. “What?” I said eventually.

By this stage, I had spent the better part of an hour testing one office chair after the other, and we had narrowed the choices down to the Flintan, Eldberget and Bleckberget.

They looked okay and were comfortable enough to sit in. I mean, they weren’t shaking my world, but they were within my budget of S$100, and I could imagine putting in an honest 12-hour work day sitting on any one of them.

Besides, I was tired and all I could think of was that IKEA should sack the person who comes up with their product names. “I feel like I’m shopping with Thor in Asgard!” I complained at one stage.

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Maybe, I suddenly thought, maybe this is why Anna Wintour has the chair she has. I mean, who has the range for this kind of retail experience?

There’s a scene in The September Issue where Wintour is in her office and she’s basically telling her staff how bad their work is. I remember it well not because it’s a masterclass in how to make people feel really bad about themselves without ever raising your voice, but because of her office chair.

You would think the most powerful woman in global fashion would prefer to  lower her Prada-sheathed bottom onto some kind of huge Iron Throne-meets-Edna Mode wingback – you know, the kind that says, “I’m powerful, kneel before me, you insignificant insect”, whilst also providing unparalleled lumbar support.

Instead, it’s just a boring old aluminium chair. Four legs and a back. It doesn’t have arm-rests, not even wheels.

I bring all this up because I had read that the average office worker spends about 10 hours a day sitting – at the office, eating lunch and at home. That’s nearly half your day. Prolonged sitting is dangerous, the article went on to say, adding that the office chair is worse for your health than smoking. The solution, apparently, is a good ergonomic chair.

Which, of course, made me look with deep dissatisfaction at my own office chair which is, basically, a glorified stool from my dining table and which is even more basic than Anna Wintour’s.

I thought, if I was going to spend all that time sitting and pretending to work and endangering my life, I might as well be doing it on something that looks and feels fabulous. Like the aforesaid Iron Throne with Lumbar Support.

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Which is basically why I then spent the following week going from one furniture showroom to the next to test office chairs. IKEA was my first stop but eventually, all those consonants and umlauts defeated me, and I fled into the night.

The next day, I found myself at Vitra, a furniture showroom where a sofa costs five figures. But I sighed as I sank into the ID Mesh by Antonio Citterio. I would hock my soul to own this office chair. It really was love at first sight.

The Vitra ID Mesh. (Photo: Vitra)

A handsome grey, it was sturdy as a greyhound, perfectly proportioned like Rafael Nadal, and as comfortable as riding a Shetland pony. The translucent back mesh ergonomically moulded my back with just the right amount of yield when I leant back.

This, I knew, was how I should spend my days as an office drone. I could sit for 24 hours in a chair like this, even if it meant I might, as an unfortunate side-effect, die faster than a five-pack-a-day smoker.

And then I tried the Physix by Alberto Meda and, just like Samantha Jones at an orgy, I immediately forgot all about the ID Mesh and fell, all over again, instantly in lust.

The Vitra Physix. (Photo: Vitra)

“What is going on here?” I murmured, as I softly caressed the fine airy netting of the seat. It was like sitting on silk. My fingers traced the sinuous lines of its elegant skeleton, fully aware that if I bought this chair, I’d have to throw out every piece of existing furniture in my study because it would be immediately clear that I owned nothing but ugly crap.

And just to prove that chair lust is a little fickle and a whole lot promiscuous, I then went to the Schiavello showroom at Central Mall where my friend Ping said I should check out the Liberty Task by Niels Diffrient.

I thought I’d been in love with the ID Mesh, but it turns out that had been a mere fling. A misguided affair of the heart that, now that I was sitting in the Liberty Task, I realised that those earlier flings had been juvenile and laughable.

What I saw at Schiavello, gentle reader, was a whole other level of sexy fierce. If Ryan Gosling ever starred in a remake of Beauty and the Beast and was transformed into a chair, he’d look like the Liberty Task.

The Liberty Task chair. (Photo: Humanscale)

Its muscular matte exoskeleton looks like it might morph at any moment into the Silver Surfer. I’m aware that I’m madly scrambling my metaphors, but, whatever.

The sculpted seat cushion gently moulded itself into the shape of my posterior. The arm rests softly supported my arms at just the right height, and the ultra-fine mesh back seemed to wrap itself around my spine with just the right amount of tension and give.

“It adjusts itself automatically to the body,” the nice store manager murmured. “There’s no need to adjust any levers.”

When I die, I wanted to be buried with this chair. I felt good. No, not good. Powerful. Like Anna Wintour. Like Captain Kirk. Right there in that showroom, I wanted to bark out, “Warp speed, Lieutenant Sulu!”

But I didn’t. Instead, I made the mistake of looking at the price tag and then calmly told the store manager I’d think about it. By which I really meant that I was going to head back to IKEA and have another serious look at the Bleckberget. I sobbed all the way in the taxi.

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Source: CNA/st(ds)
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