December 1, 2006
Ilkka Suppanen’s easy chair for Zanotta makes slouching fashionable.
A few years ago Ilkka Suppanen noticed that whenever he and his friends would loaf around on the couch watching TV or playing video games, their bodies assumed a familiar position: “a kind of half-lying posture,” as he describes it, “which is supposed to be comfortable but that in the end is quite bad for the back.” Suppanen, a 38-year-old Finnish designer based in Helsinki, set out to create something that would combine the lazy comfort of a rec-room recliner with the clean lines and ergonomic principles of modern design. The result is the elegant yet casual Colors chair. Produced by Italian manufacturer Zanotta (www.zanotta.it), the chair is strong, light, and customizable—the colors of its three cushions can be specified individually. To complete the La-Z-Boy effect, there is also a footrest option. Most important, Suppanen says, his creation “actually supports the half-lying, half-sitting position.” Here he tells us more about the Colors chair.
When I originally designed the chair for the Japanese company E&Y in 2004, it was called Lazy Lady, a nod to the American La-Z-Boy armchair. But since La-Z-Boy is not well known in Europe, the name didn’t have the resonance it does in North America.
I built a “machine” that we use in the studio when making chairs. It is composed of a set of adjustable planes that simulate the angles of a backrest, seat, or footrest. I then have the shortest and the tallest people in the studio try it out and ask if they like the way it feels. Since I am of medium height, I also test it myself. It’s always a compromise; we all have different proportions, so arriving at something that is a good fit for everyone is a challenge.
I realized that because this half-prone posture is formed by three different straight planes, it would be possible to construct the chair out of three separate cushions, each upholstered in a different color. The cushion covers are removable and available in leather and a wide color spectrum of fabrics, including a wool textile. I would have liked the cushions themselves to be interchangeable, but because of production concerns, they are quite fixed.
I tried to make the steel frame extremely thin, in keeping with the Scandinavian tradition of using as little material as possible. Then to counterbalance the lightness of the base, I added thick cushions.