The Chiropractor's Chair
Updated: Jan 10
A few years ago I took a stand at a London exhibition hoping to talk to potential new clients with an interest in bespoke furniture
. On the second day I was approach by a gentleman who was admiring some of our furniture and in particular the chairs I had on display.
Talking about what we do is a real passion of mine and it was during this particular conversation that I was presented with what I considered to be a real challenge and a potential project which greatly intrigued me.
The gentleman is a renowned chiropractor to the stars who suffered from back pain himself and had failed to find a chair which made him feel comfortable.
I ask if he had tried the well-known mass-produced brands on the market and the response was yes but none of the ones tried made any difference.
After a long and interesting conversation about when and where this chair was to be used, he went on his way but I had promised to come back to him with a solution.
I spent many hours thinking about possible solutions – I had spent most of my life making chairs and they always had to be functional and comfortable, but this was the first time I had to think about the specifics of making a chair for one specific individual with lumbar problems.
As well as thinking of ways to make a chair feel more engaging and supportive, I also had to consider materials, proportions and structure. I then realised that this would take more information than I possessed at that time – I not only needed to think about the dimensions of the chair – I needed also to consider the dimensions of the person who would be sitting in it and the support they required.
I arranged a meeting with a chiropractor as this seemed the logical first step if I hoped to fully understand the biomechanics of the human body and the parameters to which could be measured and calculated for maximum comfort and support.
From this meeting I was able to start work on drawings, calculations based on the information I had and the size of the client, height, weight etc. However, as I’m sure you know, theory is one thing, translating that to a physical object is another thing altogether
And so the process began - I made many templates and spent several months trying to understand exactly what this chair needed to achieve for this person. To be honest I probably bored my family and friends to tears, asking for their assistance to act as dummies, sitting in these cardboard templates that I had made.
Viewed sideways on you can see how lazy the body is and a bad posture only makes this worse. The key question was how to create a chair that puts this specific client’s body in a neutral position for prolonged periods of time.
The challenge was almost an unhealthy obsession the more answers I found; the more questions followed them
The main variables that had to be addressed seemed to be height of the seat, width, depth and angle but I also considered the upholstery, type of wood for the construction and distance between the chair legs.
Creating lower lumbar support in the upholstery and an almost wedge-shaped approach to the chair body offered significant support and preventing the negatives of bad posture.
Amazingly enough even adjusting the front support lumbar by just 5mm had a huge effect on the support and comfort of the chair.
Finally, The Chiropractor’s Chair was produced. I had to explain that the upholstery was very firm compared to other chairs and initially it would feel slightly uncomfortable. I stressed that The Chiropractor should persevere with the chair as once his body got used to it the benefits would be substantial.
As expected, I received a call the day after delivery saying it didn’t feel as comfortable as my client expected – I urged him to persevere as I had already said, confident that over time the results would be impressive.
I really hoped that The Chiropractor give the chair a proper chance as I wasn’t sure what Plan B would be – a refund? Perish the thought.
I didn’t hear anything from my client for a number of weeks when I was once again at an exhibition and late in the week The Chiropractor returned to my stand, I was to be honest a little apprehensive as I saw him approaching.
The Chiropractor confirmed that he had indeed persevered with the chair and after around three to four weeks it had started to become the chair he dreamed of – comfortable and supportive as it seemed to mould itself to his specific body shape and dimensions. The bespoke chair meant the client was starting to feel the benefits
of a stronger core and better posture during the hours he spent in the chair.
As far as profit was concerned on this particular piece, when I take into account all the time spent on research and trial and error, the figure would be minimal, but to be honest this research is a very valuable asset to which I apply to all my furniture pieces and so I consider this as a very valuable research exercise.
So, it ended up as a win win situation – I understand that people don’t always want to know how much goes in producing bespoke furniture, but it is absolutely fascinating to me.