Food: An investigation of seating disorders

"THIS CHAIR'S too small." "This one's too big." "This one's too hard." Serial diners are just like Goldilocks, always looking for the restaurant chair that's juuuuust right. The dining chair, after all, is the very foundation of the dining experience.

It's the bottom line, representing that crucial point where the designer meets the diner. Get a bad chair, and chances are, you won't notice it. You won't stay long, either. No extra-curricular dessert wine, or coffee and petits fours for me, thanks, early morning, you know how it is. Get a good chair, however, and you still won't notice it, right through three courses, coffee, and far too many cognacs.

You can tell how long you are meant to stay in a restaurant by the nature of its chairs. The hard benches of the noodle bar are designed to send you on your way as quickly as possible, to make room for the next lot of faithful slurpers. A warm, comfy, padded armchair, on the other hand, says welcome, chief executive officer; settle in, lord of the realm; and make yourself at home, master of the universe. We are but your slaves.

A great chair works with your body, not against it. It is in proportion with the table, and in harmony with its surroundings. It's not so high that your feet are left dangling, and not so low that you feel you are a five year old at the grown-ups' table. It doesn't wobble, scrape the floor with a screech, or make your bum go numb.

Some chairs try too hard. You don't know whether to sit in them, or to stand in front of them wondering aloud what the artist was really trying to say. Some look like the thing you took home from school after metal- work class, others like Apollo 13 crash pads. Then there is the garden furniture that has escaped the great outdoors in order to ruin the great indoors. Unless your dining-room is prone to extremes in temperature and the occasional downpour, I can't see the point.

Some chairs wrap themselves around you like a Sumo wrestler's bear hug. They tend to get up to go to the bathroom at the same time as you do. Then there is the designer bum rap - all angles and curves, over- garnished and under-ergonomical. I recall one such chair that, rather than being shaped to one's posterior, actually rose in the middle of the seat in an attempt to divide and conquer. Gave me quite a fright at the time.

If you are looking for the very essence of a nation's character, the answer is right under its collective bottom. A French chair has character, poise, confidence. It stands more seriously at the table, with a sense of purpose, waiting for that soft, powdered derriere, for the tap of high heels on old parquet, secure in the knowledge of its birthright. A traditional British chair is as much at home in the drawing room as the dining room. All polished wood and glowing velvet, it is designed to impress rather than be impressed upon.

But oh, those Spanish chairs. Clean, curvaceous lines, long, lean legs, and a flash of humour - I could sit there all night. American chairs? Well, think airport, think commercially viable, think capable of carrying the weight of a fully grown corn-fed steer. If the Australian chair were a person, it would be a Swedish backpacker on Bondi Beach: always tanned, blonde and wooden; and happier out on the terrace in the sun than it is cooped up in a dining-room.

The truly great chairs do not come along everyday. Michael Thonet invented the classic bentwood chair in 1859, which went on to become the biggest selling chair of all time. Arne Jacobsen invented the revolutionary Ant chair in 1955, moulded from a single piece of plywood. You may remember that Christine Keeler added considerably to its popularity, while at the same time confusing many as to the correct way to be seated.

What's next? The cube. My local sandwich shop has cubes on wheels that can be moved to form tables, chairs and magazine stands. No legs, no backs, no arms, no wobbling, and no designer features, because it is in itself a designer feature. That should make everyone happy - except that pain in the bum, Goldilocks.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before