Navy Chair – how did the classic chair conquer the interior design market?

Navy Chair – how did the classic chair conquer the interior design market?
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Simple design, raw look and aluminum – how did it happen that Navy Chair became one of the most popular chairs in the world? Learn more about its history.

Even if you have seen it many times in TV series such as “Dr. House”, “Sex in the City”, “CSI: New York Crimes” or in the movie “The Matrix”, you might not have paid attention to it. Navy Chair is a chair with a very simple design that does not catch the eye. Nevertheless, it has become one of the most famous chairs in the history of American design. 

Navy Chair history

The Navy Chair was designed by order of the American government during World War II for the American Navy. EMECO was to make a chair that would perform well on warships and survive torpedo blasts, corrosion and salt water. 

Create a light but strong chair, one that will last a lifetime

– That was supposed to be the guideline for EMECO’s designers. This is how the Navy Chair was created.

After the war the chair was distributed to hospitals, prisons, and government offices. Its simple design and durability suited such places perfectly. However, the Navy Chair’s path was to lead further – through luxurious restaurants, elegant salons and mansions to movie sets of popular series and films.

How did the Navy Chair become a hit in the world of interiors?

In 1979 the Navy Chair manufacturing company EMECO found itself in a difficult situation – government contracts had expired and there was no more demand for the chairs in public institutions. Only the civilian market could save the company from bankruptcy. 

After Jay Buchbinder and then his son Gregg took over EMECO, the chair was promoted in the interior design market to such an extent that it became a favorite of designers and interior decorators. Navy Chair started to appear, among others, in restaurants and pubs in New York. 

Later on it was also made famous by Phillipe Starck, who collaborated with EMECO for some time. Thanks to him, the chair found its way into luxurious hotels, restaurants, and the residences of the rich. Giorgio Armani himself ordered it for his fashion showrooms!

Navy Chair design

The famous American chair has still been produced using the same method since World War II. The entire production process takes two weeks and includes as many as seventy-seven stages. Each chair is made by hand and consists of twelve elements welded together. Then the entire piece of furniture undergoes heat treatment – the details of this process are kept secret, because it is what makes the Navy Chair so strong and durable. 

Apparently, during a demonstration experiment, Witton C. Dinges, an EMECO engineer, dropped a Navy Chair from the sixth floor. As a result, the chair had only a few scratches and its entire structure remained intact.

Its ergonomic shape and light weight (3.5 kg) are other advantages of the chair. It also has a characteristic bounce of the buttocks on the seat, which affects the comfort of its use. Until it entered the interior design market, it was produced in the natural color of raw aluminum, but later began to appear in various colors.


main photo: Desforges

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