CERTAINLY a beautiful chair can have event guests sitting pretty. But if that chair is uncomfortable or — worse yet — unsafe, it can ruin an event. Here, top chair manufacturers describe how they work to create seats that can't be beat.
When Inglewood, Calif.-based The Chameleon Chair Connection designs its Chameleon chairs, comfort and style go hand in hand. “Chairs are one of the most prominent elements of any party,” president Lenny Targon says. “A comfortable, ugly chair is just as bad as a beautiful, uncomfortable chair.”
The Chameleon chair weighs 13 pounds, has a removable metal back available in various styles, a removable fire-retardant fabric cushion, and different colors of microsuede cloth backs to match an event's decor. This versatility helped the company design and manufacture 1,500 chairs for the 2005 Academy Awards Governors Ball, when what is normally a six- to 12-month process had to be completed in less than two months.
While good looks are a goal, for Excel Seat, safety is the basis for its designs. “We don't take chances [concerning safety],” says Henry Wu, manager of the Ontario, Calif.-based company. “When there is a serious injury, everybody loses.” As a result, the company invented and patented a reinforced bracket for its 705-style chair, creating a stronger frame by using stainless steel solid bolts with non-reversible stainless steel nuts instead of rivets. The chair can now hold up to 725 pounds with the help of the reinforced brackets, Wu explains. In addition, the 705 style is inexpensive, has a special coating that resists scratching and water damage, and, most importantly, “when people use it, they feel comfortable,” he says.
Making a high-quality, durable chair is essential not only to the success of manufacturers, but also to rental companies. “A rental company counts on how many times they can rent one chair to make money,” says Faye He, vice president of sales and marketing for Ontario, Calif.-based Richwood Imports. In order to ensure quality and durability, Richwood invested in machinery to design chairs with fine craftsmanship, makes its white wood folding chair from solid oak — as opposed to the soft wood that other manufacturers use — and imports German beechwood for its popular stacking chiavari, He explains. Richwood also patented a metal reinforced rung that is bolted to each leg of the 10-pound chiavari chairs to ensure strength and durability.
With the increasing desire for stronger chairs and less maintenance, companies are manufacturing resin chairs without compromising the look of standard white wood folding chairs. “The maintenance on [white wood chairs] is very high with repeated sanding and painting many times a year,” says Brian Stevens, sales manager for Beachwood, Ohio-based RPS, which offers the Gladiator folding resin chair. “Rental companies should not have to spend their time constantly maintaining chairs.” In order to gain market credibility as an alternative to a wood chair — “The last thing [rental companies] wanted was for their business image to promote a ‘cheap plastic’ chair that is unstable,” Stevens recalls — RPS designed the Gladiator chair to have the look, feel and strength of wood without the maintenance. By combining 100 percent U.V.-stabilized polypropylene with a steel reinforcing system that provides increased stability in high-stress areas, the company created a chair that has the strength expected by customers, Stevens says.
Experts agree that when it comes to chair inventory, quality beats quantity. “Purchase fewer high-quality chairs rather than settle for a low-quality product,” Stevens advises. “[Rental companies'] return on investment, liability issues and business image will suffer with lower quality chairs.”
Excel Furniture, 909/923-0886; Richwood Imports, 909/930-6677; RPS, 216/831-3222; The Chameleon Chair Connection, 888/CHAIR95 (242-4795)