Post Production

Christmas shopping: a Director’s chair

A Director’s chair should be an item high on your shopping list this Christmas. It’s more than a chair: it’s a comfortable way to sit and a symbol of power with a design that goes back some two thousand years.

Christmas shopping: a Director's chair

If there is an object strongly related to Cinema, it’s the director’s chair. Given as a promotional item, present on set, or sitting on your porch waiting for you, the director’s chair is a unique kind of “thinking man’s seat”.

Do you need more reasons to buy a director’s chair? Using it as some use a thinking cap, only that here you can sit comfortably while browsing through your thoughts, is one good reason to invest in one of these chairs. Another good reason to buy one is portability. Built to be easily carried around and quickly made ready to seat, director’s chair are practical objects that are used, many times, as promotional products or gifts.

Christmas shopping: a Director's chairYes, you read correctly. They make excellent promotional gifts that people never refuse… because these chairs are useful and versatile. And the people receiving them – especially if you’ve engraved their name on the canvas –  will always remember you as someone that sees them as… a director. A director’s chair – or a couple of them -, helps to fill any space, from the corner of a booth at a fair to the balcony of a friend’s house. They are so useful, no one really will refuse to have one. Or two. Or more…

If you decide to include a director’s chair in your shopping list for Christmas, then maybe it is time to know its story, which is always a good subject of conversation, while everybody sits around… on their director’s chair. The first reason why they became popular is, apparently, one: functionality. In fact, the design of the modern chair is not very different from previous models, that were not used by directors, but by high magistrates of the Roman Empire.

In fact, although the 15th century is pointed as the first historical date to which the base design is related, some authors suggest that the origin of the modern days director’s chair goes all the way back to the Roman curule chair. This means that when you sit on such a chair – director’s chair, that is – you’re sitting on over two thousand years of design, as references to the curule seat go back to 44 BC. Some say even before! That’s really something to think about.

Truth to be said, the curule chair did not have back or arms as you find on today’s director’s chair. What they have in common is the scissors-like action that makes it easy to fold the chair for carrying it around. Anyways, the modern director’s chair is a lightweight foldable chair with the seat and back made of canvas, with a frame that is made of metal or plastic or, if you’re really after the classical look, wood.

Christmas shopping: a Director's chair

The Roman curule chair or the medieval versions were always used as a sign of power and the high rank of those sitting on them. In modern times, film directors used the chair as a seat of authority. As furniture restorer Christophe Pourny, author of “The Furniture Bible”, wrote, the director’s chair is “a symbol and a tool of power.It’s basically a movable throne.”

The modern American style director’s chairs were introduced by the Gold Medal Camp Furniture company in 1892.  On the company’s website you can read that “the distinctive features of the American-Made Gold Medal Classic series, including the contoured leg design and shaped arm pads, have not changed through 118 years of manufacturing. We regularly receive requests for replacement canvas sets for chairs made in the first half of last century. The Gold Medal Classic Directors Chair is truly a treasured piece of American furniture that has provided comfortable seating for well over a century.”

Christmas shopping: a Director's chair

The same year it was launched, 1892, the Gold Medal Classic design won an award for excellence in casual furniture design in the lead-up to the 1893 World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Gold Medal Directors Chairs are now manufactured by The Lord’s Table, Inc.

Another brand you’ll find in the market is the Telescope Canvas Director Chair. Made in the United States since 1903, these chairs are handmade using the finest solid North American hardwood. Canvas covers are custom dyed with the finest vat dyes available, a total of 18 colours. Arms are shaped and sanded by hand for maximum comfort and smoothness. According to Telescope, “the heavy duty shaped legs of the World Famous Chair set it apart from the crowd. Corner bracing on the counter and bar height designs insure long term rigidity of these frames. Chairs fold compactly, arm assembly folds down flat and packs easily.”

Christmas shopping: a Director's chair

One thing that’s interesting about Telescope Canvas Director Chair is that it is available in three seat heights and five frame finishes, so you can choose the chair that best fits your needs. Prices start at $125 for the Telescope Casual Low Back Director’s Chair.  The company says that “these are the heavy-duty no-nonsense directors’ chairs made of hard wood and high quality canvas. Made by Telescope in the USA… not the imported knock-offs. Many canvas colors to choose from! The standard motion picture industry canvas color is black.”

So, if you’re looking for a Director’s chair, even if you are not yet a film director – or will never be – this is the chair’s story. It’s, no doubt, a good gift for Christmas. Now let me go and get mine.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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