In the last decade or two, broadly speaking, we’ve seen modern office life being pulled in two opposite directions. The spaces we work in have become simpler, while the chairs we sit in have become more complex. With the former, I’m talking about the open-plan office spaces that have emerged as a fashionable alternative to the cubicle farms of yore. Regarding the chairs, my point should be perfectly obvious: look at the thing you’re sitting on, and see if you can count the number of dials, knobs, and levers it has on both hands.
There are many good things about these trends, but both have undesirable aspects, too. And it’s those lingering issues with our new, open, infinitely adjustable modern offices that the Riya, Pearson&Lloyd’s new task chair for Bene, was designed to address.
One aim was to make something that looked like a chair—a simple, inviting chair—rather than an intergalactic office throne. As Tom Lloyd, one of the studio’s founders explains, task chairs often take on "the unsympathetic aesthetic of the machine—masculine and aggressive, grey and black plastic, with prosthetic armatures and multiple levers." The design of the Riya, he says, "has been largely driven by a desire to challenge this trend."
The result: a task chair that’s a little fun and a little functional, without going overboard in either direction. It’s got clean lines and comes in a handful of friendly colors. There’s a version which uses a weight-sensitive mechanism to automatically adjust to the person sitting in it—useful for those open offices where seats rotate on a first-come, first-serve basis—as well as a fully adjustable model for those who do sit at the same desk every day. That version includes one nice touch: all the adjustments are available in bright orange, which not only advertises them to users but also renders them a bit less technical and intimidating.
The chair’s also available with a low or high back, the latter intended to address one of the open office’s oft-ignored problems: distractions. The benefits of these open office plans, Lloyd points out, have a serious consequence: "a real threat to our ability to really concentrate when we need to." And while it’s hard to actually dampen all the ambient sound that comes from these new offices, the high back was designed to provide "an emotional and physical cocoon for users to work behind."
There’s no piece of furniture we spend more time with than the chairs we work in, besides maybe our beds—and even then it’s probably a wash. But the same thing is true for both: We want something that’s not just comfortable physically. It needs to feel at home in our emotional lives, too.