SMART CHAIR MANUFACTURERS KNOW that a good event chair is one that feels comfortable, looks fabulous and takes punishment. They're betting on advanced materials and innovative engineering to give their seats an edge.
For many event designers, it's what you put on a chair that counts. But for manufacturers, beauty starts on the inside.
“Our material is almost science fiction — it's not regular plastic,” says Diego Discacciati, vice president of East Brunswick, N.J.-based Drake Corp. He explains that his chairs are made from a resin core covered with a weather-resistant outer “skin.” Because all materials are uniform in color, he adds, the chairs are less likely to show wear and tear. “If you scratch the chair, or even cut it in half,” he insists, “you'll always see the same color.”
For Murray Kennedy of Christchurch, New Zealand-based Pathway Engineering, aluminum is the key to the company's popular Alloyfold II chair. Besides being 30 percent lighter than steel, he says, the chair has “greater strength, lower stack height, and a hard-wearing anodized finished that won't rust.”
Features that increase safety and improve function are finding their way into chair design.
Kennedy notes that Pathway Engineering is currently working on the prototype of a new rubber foot for the Alloyfold series, designed to “increase strength and stability on slippery surfaces.”
This year, Stoughton, Mass.-based Rentals Unlimited has introduced poly-fill cushions to its event chairs. Design manager Arthur Targontsidis, who maintains that “comfort, by far, is the most important feature in any chair,” says the cushion is twice as thick as a regular cushion and “looks similar to a down cushion you would find on a residential chair.”
Safety is a top priority at Ontario, Calif.-based Excel furniture. “All the resin chairs on the market right now have a frame with a bar to block the seat from flipping over,” says general manager Henry Wu. “But with the crossbar of the frame, you can catch your finger in it and be injured.” Excel's answer is a patent-pending safety handle that not only protects users' hands, but also makes the chair considerably easier to carry, according to Wu.
When it comes to chair aesthetics, clean lines and classic styles get customers' votes, manufacturers say. Even traditional event chairs, though, are benefiting from fresh ideas.
Excel's American Billboard chair gets its name from a clip-on back cushion that not only adds comfort to a basic folding chair, but also can be customized for the event or for corporate sponsors. “Hotels and golf courses especially love this,” Wu says.
For outdoor events, Drake adds specially designed “lawn feet” to the legs of its classic chiavari to “prevent it from sinking into the lawn and damaging the lawn itself,” Discacciati says.
Owego, N.Y.-based Stakmore combines the traditional look and feel of solid maple or ash wood with easy folding, appealing to “clients that are looking for an upscale chair that has a folding function,” says vice president Eric Niermeyer, who touts the chair as “a folding chair with a permanent look.”
RESOURCES: Drake Corp., 732/254-1530; Excel Furniture, 800/883-3923, 909/923-0886; Pathway Engineering, 888/368-7713, +64 3 349 4065; Rentals Unlimited, 781/341-1600; Stakmore, 607/687-1616.