Critical: Collier Sutter, Contributing Writer
Model tested: Womb chair by Eero Saarinen
The details: Eero Saarinen’s 1946 Womb chair was designed to be the dream seat to snuggle up, an answer to Florence Knoll request that the Finno-American designer and architect imagined “a chair that looked like a basket full of pillows”. But the selling point is in the name: the enveloping sculptural form of the Womb chair which, yes, intentionally mimics a uterus, made it an instantly recognizable classic of the Modernist movement. “It was designed on the theory that a lot of people have never really felt comfortable and secure since leaving the womb,” Saarinen once explained. “The chair is an attempt to rectify this maladjustment of our civilization. “
Sitting test: is it comfortable?
We are going to get down to business. Sometimes a chair is just a chair. But that’s not the case here: this chair is a first-class seat all the way through. The Womb chair by Eero Saarinen is eero-gonomic – forgive the pun – with a foam liner around its fiberglass frame providing ultimate comfort and just enough support. It was not designed to be filled to the brim with cushions, but has its comfort components in its structure: the organic shapes stem from the designer’s belief that a chair should be flexible to adapt to any type of sitting. Plus, the recessed armrests are parallel to the floor and at the perfect height for lounging. Sit back and you’ll wonder why not all lounge chairs follow suit with this awesome armrest placement.
The high-quality woolen fabric that the chair is covered in is also very comfortable, and the small square backrest cushion is covered with the same fabric. Although the seat and back cushion looks sewn into the body of the chair at first glance, they are actually movable for easy adjustment. Let it be known, the whole concept of the uterus is very real. Climb down and you will feel secure in a cocoon in a chair that almost echoes the embrace of a baby cradle and supports many body positions. You can relax in any way you dare and the Womb will be backing you up – lay back, curl up, lay on your side, or bring out your crisscross applesauce pose.
Is it durable and practical in a modern home?
It’s hard to find a chair that’s both comfortable and durable, but that ticked both boxes for me. It should definitely fit in a house with children or pets. Most of the fabrics offered for upholstery have a stain resistant finish and can be cleaned using water-based cleaning products. Fun Fact: Eero and Florence consulted with a boat builder on the original design to develop the Womb using industrial materials like fiberglass and resin, and the legs are tubular steel – no tricky stuff here.
Do the photos do this product justice? Was there something you were surprised to see IRL?
The IRL experience with the product far exceeded what I expected. I was most struck by how cozy and comfortable the rough textured fabric was while it was up close and personal – and how the chair fit perfectly into my space. I didn’t even need an ottoman, as I couldn’t help but curl up like a pretzel in this angled icon. As I mentioned before, I was also surprised by the extra elbow room on the recessed armrests with enough free space to put my book (or live on the edge and put my cocktail in).