Friday, January 31, 2014

Pondering the Porter

When the wintry wind is whipping around outside, wouldn't you wish for a chair to keep you warm and protected?  Centuries ago, if you were on call in a cold castle awaiting and admitting guests, you might fantasize about how you might be most comfortable. Happily, some clever soul came up with the idea of enclosing a wing chair.  Central heating and double-paned windows were far in the future.

Ah, the romance of a piece of furniture! At about the age of fifteen, I remember seeing a porter's chair for the first time.  Situated near the front door of an elegant furniture showroom, I recall being enthralled, and having delusions of grandeur, desired to possess the thing. I mused that if I could only afford the $500 or so that it cost, it would make me happy. Suffice it to say that I couldn't afford it.

Versailles Burlap-Backed Chair
Restoration Hardware

The chair was believed to have originated in England, where it then jumped the Channel to great estates and palaces in France. These chairs look fit for a king, but for Louis XV,  I doubt he didn't so much want to make his servants more comfortable as ensure that his guests were suitably impressed and intimidated by his excellent taste and style!

The porter's chair signified your station in life as a servant. Today, it does not discriminate, and in fact, you will find it in the thick of anything regarding high style.

Chesterfield Porter's Chair

When the trade of upholders became upholsterers, all manner of comfort and cushioning was unleashed. Just imagine how much this chair must have helped the poor porter feel cozy and content!

With the passing of time, the porter's chair (along with the porter) joined the unemployment rolls.  In the Victorian era, it was  reinvented and reinterpreted as a beach chair.  Here you see an entire herd of them doing hard labor sheltering the well-to-do from the sun and wind. Quite a far cry from the cold castle!
And why not double your fun and double your pleasure?
 Atelier Lounge offered by Dauphin
In a leap of imagination, the porter's chair has leapt from residential to commercial use, evolving as new needs are required.

Another army of porters at work in present day times. This design makes excellent use of the chair's acoustical benefits.  It also lends intimacy in a large restaurant with diners shoulder to shoulder.

Wander's Tulip

Here is an amazing interpretation of the chair disguised as a tulip by the wonderful Marcel Wanders. It is a revolution in design as it revolves on its stem.

ID Trim Cap by Antonio Citterio, 2012

Another full evolution for the porter's chair.  At work in the office, this ergonomic task chair provides all the basic accoutrements such as helping the poor worker concentrate better in an open office space.

Massaud Work Lounge with Canopy
Jean-Marie Massaud for Coalesse
Now we're really cookin'!  This pod offers a table, built-in lighting, optimized acoustics, and is totally wired for integration of your techy devices.  You can have total privacy or take a conference call in a completely public space. Added pluses are that you can take a snooze and nobody is the wiser.

Haworth Windowseat Chair
Mike and Maaike Studio 
I read a silly book in my youth about a woman who became possessed with the notion of owning a Dior gown.  It ended as a sad story, with nowhere for the dress to be worn, and was left hanging in her closet.  Happy to say, the porter's chair is definitely back and enjoying a new lease on life. So why not sit in one and put up our feet?