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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas