Are you sitting comfortably? Why good furniture helps sustainability

Since Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair of 1925 the formula for comfortable seating has been known: create a right-angle, open it up a tad, and tip it backward, so that the seat places the bottom lower than the knees. Your weight is thrown back into the angle and your thighs lock your back firmly into the backrest.

Too few armchairs and fewer couches have adopted this simple template, which keeps you comfortable for hours, even though it’s been argued that all chairs are bad for you. You’re much likelier to find Breuer’s reliable comfy formula in somebody’s car than in his or her home. Instead, even in an age of ergonomics, fashion has generated an endless supply of sleek flat-bottomed chairs and couches that you slip out of.

If you don’t have a resented example at home, open your junk mail. An IKEA catalogue will do. Check out Stockholm, Skogaby, Karlstad and Ekerö (before going to sofa-bed hybrids such as Nockeby, Hagalund, Moheda, Knopparp, Friheten). IKEA is far from the worst, because at least it produces Poäng and the exemplary Villstad, which follow the tilted formula for comfort.

If it were only a pain in the back, the perverse box-configurations of contemporary seating furniture might not be so bad. But in my mind, the snazzy designs that now flood the market have a negative effect on contentment, which in turn has a powerful influence on lifestyle and hence patterns of consumption.

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