"What's in a chair? That which we call an office chair by any other name would feel as comfortable." Even though Shakespeare may not have frequented the modern office, he'd certainly have a lot to say about the properties of office chairs. Used in every workstation and conference room, finding the right chair requires a few calculated and careful considerations about the chair's construction. Every choice has its own set of benefits that can be combined to find your perfect fit.
The right upholstery defines the feel, look, and longevity of your office chair from the outside in. Consider how often you'll need to clean the chair, how rigorously it will be used, and your décor choices while picking the perfect upholstery.
It's everywhere in life, but the fabric on your task chair isn't quite like the textile on your clothing. Commercial-grade fabric is a great choice for many working environments and even residential-geared seating will feature a more durable weave that's designed to withstand long hours of sitting. Look towards chairs that are ANSI/BIFMA rated, which ensures that they have been tested to withstand a test that mechanically determines the chair's suitability over a long period of time. Its major downfall? It's hard to clean and disinfect, so be wary of using fabric in healthcare offices and ensure that you have the right equipment to give your chair a good cleaning from time to time.
Also known as faux leather, fake leather, or leatherette, today's polyurethane has come a long way. Unlike the poly of yore, we've found ways to imitate leather in a way that mimics the texture, look, and luxurious qualities at a fraction of the price. These chairs are easy to care for and can be cleaned with simple cleaning solvents, such as water with a touch of dish soap. Unfortunately, these materials can break down and flake if they don't receive proper care.
When it comes to office chairs, vinyl isn't necessarily the most popular choice. While common in waiting rooms and healthcare facilities, vinyl upholstery is reserved for seating that needs rigorous cleaning on continued intervals. When you're looking for a task chair for a physician's office or in a lab setting, you should try to find vinyl-upholstered pieces that can be deep cleaned with harsh solvents. Some 24/7-rated chairs feature vinyl for its impressive strength and suitability for shift-based work.
Even though varieties of leather aren't on the same level, most of them are significantly more luxurious than the alternatives. When properly cared for, it won't break down under years of use. Using leather polish and the right cleaners will ensure that it retains its favorable feel. Fun fact! Most of these chairs have leather on all of the "touchable" areas, such as the seat, back, and arm-pads, however they have a seamlessly coordinating polyurethane back (don't let this dissuade you-- it simply keeps the price-point reasonable).
Unfortunately, the term "bonded leather" is a bit disingenuous. To put it simply-- it is leather on a technicality. The surface of bonded leather is typically made from polyurethane, though to achieve its title, scrap leather is ground up and blasted on the back of the poly with spray adhesive, which adds no tensile benefit to the material. For consumers, "bonded leather" sounds like a premium purchase, though it is instead wiser to invest in a leather or durable polyurethane chair.
Mesh offers comfortable and breathable support that other materials cannot duplicate. With a grid-like pattern, air flow is encouraged even when the user is seated. This is great for individuals who often overheat in a fabric or leather chair. Sometimes, mesh is used as an outer covering on a fabric seat or back, though this is often stylistic and similar in efficacy to a fabric chair.
Not all support materials are created equal. Depending on your needs, price point, and personal preference, selecting the right padding will ensure that you're comfortable in your office chair for years to come.
Fabricated foam, otherwise known as cut foam or slab foam, is one of the most common seat support materials that furniture makers use. It is often used in upholstered office chairs. Fabricated foam can vary in densities; the denser a piece of foam, the firmer and more durable it will be. However, too much firmness can be uncomfortable. As a solution, many furniture makers will add layers of foam in the seat of the chair. The layers will have various densities, with the lighter, less dense foam pieces towards the top to create a cushioning feeling when a user sits. Office chairs that include only layers of fabricated foam are often a very economical choice for those looking for a new office chair.
Memory foam features a unique and distinctive chemical makeup that allows the seat to adjust to your body temperature. The seats, therefore, retain more heat than others and also mold their shape to the user as the user moves around. With such a design, memory foam seats keep the spine in a constant neutral position for desirable comfort. Memory foam seats are known for their superior comfort and their “hugging” effect. These chair seats are also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites as an additional benefit of their design.
Molded foam is aptly named, as its production process includes an actual mold. The process consists of liquid foam material being poured into a mold and then baked to set. Molded foam seats offer more consistent support and are able to hold their shape longer than fabricated foam. These seats can also allow for a comfortable and visually appealing contour seat. Another distinct benefit of molded foam is that there is a possibility of a great range of firmness. It all depends upon how the foam is produced.
It's not just an upholstery choice! With traditional office chairs, such as leather or other upholstery, a user can occasionally experience a chair with an uncomfortably warm seat or back. As there is a lack of ventilation, the hot air is entrapped. Mesh chairs solve this problem by offering a ventilation system. With mesh seat material, temperature is regulated, allowing for air flow to keep the user cool and comfortable. Leather and fabric chairs without ventilation systems can also retain unpleasant odors. With a mesh design, unpleasant orders are less likely to cling to the material.
Pocketed Coil System
Seats featuring pocketed coil systems offer superior comfort. The spring coils help to evenly distribute weight and are more durable than most foam options. The seats include a multi-layer foam design in addition to pocketed springs located in the seat portion. The layers of foam also capture all of the benefits from each type of foam and ensure comfort when sitting. The top layer of foam is less dense, creating a nice cushioned feeling when user first sits. The other foam layers are denser and will hold up better to constant usage.
Every chair deserves a strong foundation. The base of the chair will determine its raw strength and often defines the borders of a Big and Tall versus standard-size seat. Some of these decisions may be cosmetic while others are tensile, but the proper choice can truly make--or break--an office chair.
Common in budget chairs, a nylon base doesn't mean that it's not a strong or durable chair. Nylon can be easily formed and shaped into the typical five-star base of most office chairs, offering a wide variety of colors and textures to accent any design elements.
Though it sounds a little ambiguous, bases that aren't made from steel are typically an alloy that should go by a different name. This provides a more premium feel to most chairs and allows for attractive powder coating or chrome plating to further accent any design sensibilities.
Sometimes you need to go big or go home. Steel bases are designed to withstand high weight capacities or provide 24/7 use for shift workers thanks to their significantly stronger tensile strength and longevity. Most Big and Tall chairs will use a metal or steel base to ensure that their strength can stand up to everyday use at larger statures.
Hard Floor or Carpet Casters
It's not too hard to spot the difference between these two caster types. While many are manufactured to function on either surface, defined caster styles should pair with the flooring environment. Smooth floors, such as wood, laminate, or tile, would be better suited by hard casters that may have a little higher tension without the enhanced strength necessary to move around carpet. If you have a carpeted surface but hard casters, go with a chair mat that can make motion a little easier. Carpet casters are larger, stronger, and more adept at handling low or mid-pile carpeting. Regardless of casters, high pile carpet isn't terribly friendly and should be paired with a chair mat.
Foot Grips and Foot Rings
Adjustable stools may feature one of the above to allow the sitter to place their feet on the base, should that better suit their sit. These are particularly useful on plated metals that may be a little more slippery than others.