Office culture generally involves sitting in a chair for hours on end, so it’s no wonder furniture designers sought to make that experience more comfortable. In 1994, the launch ofHerman Miller’s iconic Aeron chairdid just that. But the ergonomic, mesh-backed office chair actually originated from an effort by the American furniture company to make a better chair for the elderly.
When Herman Miller decided to look into furniture tailored to the elderly’s needs in the late 1970s, the company tapped designers Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf. At the time, assisted living wasn’t widely common, and hospitals didn’t have adequate furniture for long-term care. The seating that was being used most often—theLa-Z-Boy—presented many challenges. To sit down, older folks with bad knees basically had to fall back into the chair. The lever to make it recline was hard to reach. Not to mention, the vinyl upholstery and foam padding didn’t distribute weight evenly—making the user more prone to bedsores.
With all of the La-Z-Boy recliner’s issues in mind, Chadwick and Stumpf created the Sarah chair. It featured a plastic inner frame to support thin foam, a footrest that folded under the seat, and a more accessible recliner control. But the chair was ultimately scrapped because the concept was a little too niche. Not many luxe furniture stores were selling to the elderly, so a more general shift to office seating was abetter bet.
Chadwick and Stumpf took the ergonomic intentions of the Sarah chair and applied it to what became the Aeron chair. The goal was to make a chair that worked for the different ways people liked to work, so it had to adjust to a range of postures and body types. One of its most innovative features eliminated the need for foam by instead using a fabric mesh that would mold to any person’s body. Unintentionally, that decision made the chair more sustainable.
The Aeron Today: Cost and Options
Once released, the chair—which cost more than $1,000 at the time—became highly coveted for its comfort-forward customization. Now, more than 8 million of the chairs have been sold. It comes in a few colorways, materials, and sizes. Depending on your desired features, it ranges from about $1,300 to $2,000. The eco-friendly chair also now comes in an onyx colorway that’s specificallymade with plastic wastediverted from the ocean. It also inspired other mesh-based office and gaming chairs on the market today. So, if you're struggling with your current at-home office chair, you might want to consider an upgrade to the Aeron for maximum comfort.
Shop Ergonomic Office Chairs:Aeron ChairHerman Millerhermanmiller.com$1,695.00SHOP NOWSwivel Desk Chairneo chairamazon.com$70.98SHOP NOWMesh Office ChairGABRYLLYamazon.com$329.50$289.50 (12% off)SHOP NOWMid Back Office ChairModwaybloomingdales.com$348.75SHOP NOW
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