So, why these chairs? Why from car seats? What created this idea?
About 8 years ago, back in college, I had moved into an apartment away from the college itself. I had just bought a nice (and somewhat expensive) office chair for my living room to use with my computer. The problem is, my neighbor below me pronounced it to be too loud. That is, it clunked too much whenever I leaned back.
This is actually a common problem with office chairs using the typical German-designed air lift mechanism. Especially when the occupant is heavy, as I was. However, he had gotten my landlord to require me to replace my chair, pronto. Coincidentally, my office chair from home, an old one, had started to fall apart. Throughout my life, I’ve always had a waste-not, want-not leaning.
Now, I went to office supply stores and looked at chairs. But within my price range, the chairs were too small, not comfortable enough, or felt too flimsy to hold my bulk. Then I had an inspiration.
Not wanting to simply throw away a perfectly good chair base, and having a limited budget with which to replace my apartment office chair, I simplified my problem. I went out, and for little money, purchased an old MB-Tex seat from an older Mercedes, some wood and some fasteners. With some trial and error, I created an adaptor to mount the Mercedes seat onto the base, and my new office chair was born.
It was great for several reasons, not the least of which was it being more comfortable than any store-bought office chair I looked at for many multiples of the price it took to build this. It was big, comfortable, solid, and... not that expensive. Having solved my own personal problem, it lay dormant as a personal problem solved for some time.
Until my father got diagnosed with stenosis. He’s fine now- but one thing he needed to do as a result of it was buy himself a more comfortable office chair. Back when I was looking to replace my office chair 8 years ago, I thought that the average office chair was overpriced. But now, it's even worse.
$400 will buy you a pretty nice chair from me. A nice Volvo seat, a good base, arm rests. You can get it with top-grain Swedish leather for about $450. With my general opinion that everything should be built with the solidity of a German battleship, I have never built anything in my life that hasn’t elicited the comment “overbuilt” or “over engineered” from somebody. Plus the adjustable backrest, lumbar, and height.
So what do you get from OfficeMax for $400? Well, you can get a high backed chair. Fairly comfortable. Bonded leather seating surfaces, walnut veneer trim. Sounds nice? Well, everything isn't as it seems.
Why? Well, let's talk definitions. First of all, bonded leather isn’t anything impressive. When you build quality furniture using top-grain cowhide, you have scraps left over. Those scraps are bonded (glued) to a backing to produce another sheet of leather. That is bonded leather. It is not particularly durable, and usually is so free of an obvious grain pattern, it looks almost like vinyl. Since the backing is glued, it has no significant aroma, either. You’d be better off with vinyl, which is much more durable. Oh, and on a chair with “leather seating surfaces,” only the area that your body touches it is leather- the rest is vinyl anyway.
Next... walnut-veneer trim. Some people think wood is wood is wood. It just isn’t true. Veneer is a thin layer of wood planed off of a board, then glued to something. In the case of most of chairs I’ve seen, the core is fiberboard. Fiberboard is made from the waste of cutting wood (basically, saw dust mixed with glue). It is a fairly weak material, and very cheap. Plastic is the same price and stronger, metal more expensive and a lot stronger.
None of these cost saving measures should be present in a chair costing $400. It needn’t be. It is easily possible to build one for that price and make a decent profit using the appropriate materials, and it irks me to see such products being sold to people.
I am not going to promise you that I'm going to produce you a jewel of a product. That isn’t what I do. What I will sell you is an overbuilt, solidly engineered, honest chair made with quality materials for a fair price. And honesty is the key.
If I tell you I am going to use leather trimming on my chairs, the trimming will be quality top-grain leather. I will use those on a chair with all leather upholstery. Some car manufacturers use vinyl on the backings of car seats- which is an intelligent practice for family sedans, as Junior’s shoes tend to find themselves on it. In that case I will use a quality vinyl, which I will tell you is vinyl.
If you want to pay for an attractive-looking wood base (and trust me, they aren’t cheap!), I will use a base that is solid wood with maybe a small metal support for structural support.
Many products are an assembly of nice-sounding features on a list that is technically accurate but misleading. They are built to sell, not built to be a good product.
My products are what I say they are. And I am building them to last because I want to build a good product. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. I promise that if you like the seat the chair is based on, my product will be comfortable and last you a long time, and feel just as well built as it really is.