Monday, 2 January 2017

Scandinavian Modernist Design + Chair = British Staple?

From the land of mispronounced words came a chair so modernist it was just strange enough to be iconic—IKEA's Poäng Chair (ee-key-yah's po-eng ch-air)

If the image you are seeing above this confuses you, then I can only assume you are not British or perhaps you are of poor sight with a crippling hatred for the Swede's. It's the Poäng chair, the chair that every grandparent has fallen off at least once and the chair that every northern child has inherited at some point of their life.

As I read on the IKEA website, it informs me that the chair was "actually the creation of Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura" and that despite being the crowning jewel in westernised Scandinavian design, it's not really from Sweden, or Finland or anywhere that fiercely adopts umlauts. With a cultural heritage that any xenophobe would likely claim to be harming his national pride and curves that would blend behind any cheese-plant in the Eames living room it's a real puzzle how this chair has become more common in British homes than hand knitted tea-cosies.

If you are not British, those ugly hats are tea-cosies.
The Poäng is the national 'spare chair', routinely slid from one room to the next when your Aunt turns up unexpectedly, for a cup of tea and a chat about the terrible things her neighbour did this week. It's the cheaper option to buying another matching sofa chair to your three-piece and it's just about bouncy enough to be a meditative rocking chair for the lower middle class. It's a mixture between exclaiming the value of aesthetics but also gripping at value for money, like any smart home owner.

On all accounts this chair shouldn't be as popular as it is, it's a strange modernist piece of furniture that has somehow engrains itself between BBC Two and Shortbread biscuits. In a shop where everything is as cheaper and utilitarian as possible, the Poäng would seem like the last choice for any standard British household.

Nobody picks the Poäng because it suit all their other steam bent wood items, and unlike most other items in IKEA I doubt you'd pick up one of these chairs because "we could really do with one of these". Even it's display is bizarre, next to all the chairs that you can sit in and pretend that you own is a glass chamber with some strange hydraulic testing machine operating perpetually. 

Though I can't explain it, and I'm not sure if you could explain it either; if you check every room in your childhood home, somehow, somewhere there will be one of those comfy bastard hiding in the corner. Both camouflaging into the fabric of the house but also standing out worse than a full car paint job, rolling through the station of Royal Tumbridge Wells. I don't know why but they are always there, haunting our home with comfort through modernism.

I theorise that this chair has risen to these heights of fame and existence because it's IKEA's odd one out, their trouble child. As a young adult there is nothing more exciting than visiting the Swedish land of dreams but as a grown adult, you go there once a year by necessity, not choice. I assume that trawling around the shop, you'll see horrendously useful shelves, very reasonably priced bed and very very small bathroom displays but hidding away in the corner; whispering sweet nothings into your ear is this maverick, this bizarre chair, locked away in a glass prison. It's a bad boy, the chair equivalent of motorcycle gang and it's just so enticing. 

If you forever live around these clean, modern, simple furniture items—the devilish bad boy that is the Poäng is a tasty alternative. You plunge into your darker, more artistic side to buy this chair, you get it home, sink into it and realise that it's great. It's so great that it doesn't matter that it doesn't suit your decor and it's got nothing in common with your china collection, it's that little bit of spice you desire to see each evening; breaking aware from the conformity of your 'useful' furniture.

The Poäng is a chair in lingerie, it's a spicy, sexy alternative to your life as you know it. Also, it's also really, really comfortable. So that could be why it's really popular, I don't know! I was too lazy to do real research into this.


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