The Social Chair is designed for apartment dwellers who like to host social gatherings in their homes. In high-density cities like London and New York, real estate is not only expensive, but limited. The social chair transforms into three separate chairs to accommodate guests, and collapses into a single chair when extra chairs are not needed. The Social Chair encourages apartment dwellers to invite their friends over, regardless of how small their homes might be.
The open-ended brief for this project was to make an object that allows someone to sit on it, whether literally a chair or not, without using CAD. Having lived in big cities most of my life—from Hong Kong, to San Francisco, to New York, to London—I wanted to make a chair that reflected both the excitement and frustrations of living in these large cosmopolitan environments. While big cities offer endless events, people, and opportunities, one may feel lonely, especially in the age of social media where interactions with friends may be more often virtual than real. Meanwhile, living space is diminishing as real estate prices are increasing.
With this theme in mind, my ideation began with sculptural art as social commentary and ended in practical commercializable products. After iterating through small concept models, I finally decided to create something that would personally benefit my own living situation. While living in San Francisco and New York, I ran into the problem of not having enough seats to host dinner parties. Yet, I did not want to buy more chairs, even if they were foldable or stackable, because my apartment was small. Hence, the idea of the Social Chair was born—a chair that encouraged apartment dwellers to invite their friends over, regardless of how small their homes might be. After all, no gesture is more personal than inviting friends over to one's home.
The concept of nested chairs is not new, but the Social Chair differs in several ways. Many existing designs are comprised of two chairs in one. By adding a third chair the complexity increases dramatically. And, unlike other nested chairs the three chairs were designed to be roughly the same size to emphasize the non-hierarchical relationship amongst friends.
After my small-scale model concept, I considered the use of acrylic sheets, plywood, and mild steel as options. Because of budget constraints, acrylic was ruled out. Bending plywood to precise shapes would be too difficult if CAD was not allowed for the project. In the end, the use of mild steel rods enabled a minimalist aesthetic that countered the visually complex stacking mechanism. Felt added a touch of softness that is appropriate for the home, but aligned with the simplicity of the design.