Thursday, July 12, 2001

Choosing a Chair

On my day off, my wife, daughter and I went to a furniture store in Odaiba (Tokyo) to look for chairs for our dining room. In the showroom which prides itself on being "#1 in the World" as far as square footage, there was American, European, Japanese and antique type furniture in a variety of colors, designs and fabrics, attractively displayed. While we were looking around, I was delighted to note that each chair had its own style and characteristic. Although one may think of a chair as an inanimate object, it's interesting to see how the craftsman's idea of how a chair should support the person who sits on it is reflected in the style, fabric/material, and the durability, delicacy and softness of the piece. Each also shows the culture and characteristics of a nation. For example, American sofas are soft and roomy, while the cushions on European sofas, particularly those made in Germany, are firm, and those who sit on them can function effectively.

Our selection of dining room chairs was finally narrowed down to two. I have a tendency to put functionality before design, and that does, at times, conflict with my wife who focuses more on the design. But, the first and foremost function of a chair is only "to seat" and the question of how comfortable it is becomes a problem for only the 30 minutes to an hour it takes for a meal. If I think of it in those terms, I didn't think it would be a problem to choose a chair based primarily on design. Comparing the two based on their design, our three opinions matched perfectly.

The backrest of the chair we selected was delicately curved, but, when we sat in it, it supported us firmly, and the armrest was curved naturally. It might be nice to use it, not only to sit in, but also to place a vase full of beautiful flowers on it. All this, and, at the same time, it was a little less expensive than the other chair we had considered.

I thought about this process after we made our selection. We make so much out of simply choosing something that will hold/support our bodies during meals. We aren't satisfied with nature's own materials, but have to stretch things to the absolute limit in order to create something that suits our image. And there are those who walk around looking and searching for these things. This mentality has shaped our culture, but, at the same time, has led to the endangerment of Nature itself. Are we (and am I) a friend of nature, or, in actuality, an enemy?

- MT

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