Karim Rashid Picks the Top 4 Luxury Plastic Chairs

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By Christopher Bright / Published by Dwell
I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.

Plastic, that omnipresent malleable material we associate with disposable goods, Hollywood personalities, and instant-gratification charge accounts. It contributes to the ever-growing class of indistinguishable items that clutter our lives, yet makes possible the essential devices and practical minutiae we rely on each day; imagine a world without toothbrushes, bicycle helmets, and (gulp) iPods. The spectrum of harm and benefit is as elastic as the material itself, simultaneously the evil villain and superhero of the material world.

The breadth of plastic chairs is no different from the diverse characters of the material—from the omnipresent backyard bucket to a high-tech rotation-molded import. So how to differentiate the good from the bad? The popularity and prevalence of plastic chairs have run the gamut over the decades since their inception—from space-age wonder, to commonplace eyesore, to high design. It’s safe to say there is a plastic chair to match every style, taste, and fashion.

Karim Rashid Picks the Top 4 Luxury Plastic Chairs - Photo 1 of 3 - Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid

Technology has played an integral part in the direction of plastic-chair design. Developments in the manufacturing process have allowed new forms, weights, and colors previously relegated to the imagination. And aside from keeping us from standing all day, these pragmatic furnishings also express our personalities. Chairs are fundamental indicators not just of our salaries but of our values and character as well. The saying may be that you wear your heart on your sleeve, but "seat" might be equally true.

When it came time to find an expert to help us assess the current crop of plastic chairs, we chose none other than Karim Rashid (hoping for the utmost blobjectivity). His Oh chair, released by Umbra in 1999, won an IDEA award, has been added to the SFMOMA permanent collection, and reinvigorated the medium—in addition to making Rashid a household name (at least at our house). Who better to help suss out the brilliant from the banal than the prince of plastic himself? Take a look at his top picks below.


1. La Marie Chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell

Karim Rashid Picks the Top 4 Luxury Plastic Chairs - Photo 2 of 3 - The La Marie Chair was designed by Philippe Starck in 2002 for Kartell and is made out of a polycarbonate mold.

The La Marie Chair was designed by Philippe Starck in 2002 for Kartell and is made out of a polycarbonate mold.

Panton Chair
Panton Chair
Intrigued by its capabilities, Danish architect and designer Verner Panton conducted pioneering experiments with plastic. In 1960, he created a prototype of the Panton Chair, the first chair to be crafted from a single piece of material and using one mold. The chair entered mass production in polyurethane foam in 1968, but Panton and Vitra continued to modify the material to assuage production issues. Today, the chair’s sinuous cantilevered design is molded out of polypropylene. The durable, matte-finished material makes it suitable for both indoors and outdoors. With bold coloring and sculptural curves, the Panton Chair has striking effect both as an occasional chair or as part of a set—and its shape makes it easy to stack when not in use. Photo: John Clark
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Karim Rashid Picks the Top 4 Luxury Plastic Chairs - Photo 3 of 3 - Designed by Jerszy Seymour in 2004, Magis’ Easy Chair is made out of polypropylene with a fiberglass reinforcement.

Designed by Jerszy Seymour in 2004, Magis’ Easy Chair is made out of polypropylene with a fiberglass reinforcement.

The Bellini Chair
The Bellini Chair
The Bellini Chair from Heller combines style and comfort in one lightweight, versatile design. Created by celebrated Italian architect Mario Bellini in 1998, this enduring design is made from injection-molded, fiberglass-reinforced plastic for a sleek look that complements any interior space. A slight flex in the backrest creates a luxurious feel while the smart design makes these chairs sturdy and stackable. Recipient of the Compasso d’Oro. Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan Photography
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