The History of Plastic Furniture

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Affordable and functional, plastic furniture can be found everywhere, from formal receptions to isolated campsites. How and why was this modern necessity created?

Origins

  • The post-World War II plastics boom prompted furniture designers to create unique pieces with the new material. The first plastic chairs featured a shell-shaped seat and metal legs. In 1955, Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed his famous tulip chair. The tulip chair had a plastic seat and single metal pedestal; the pedestal leg was coated in plastic to unify the chair.

Advancements

  • Improvements in plastics technology in the 1960s allowed furniture designers and manufacturers more options to create functional pieces. The injection molding process was used to create a chair that was a single piece of plastic. In 1968, Danish designer Verner Panton created the first single form injection-molded chair, an S-shaped stackable cantilever chair.

Mass Production

  • In the 1980s, the first mass-produced monobloc (single piece) chairs were created. As large manufacturers took over, designer elements of the chair were replaced by the need for a practical style, resulting in the type of plastic furniture now recognized on patios across the country.

Plastic Furniture Today

  • Most of today's plastic furniture uses the same injection-molding process and design qualities as its predecessors. Although the equipment used to manufacture the furniture is very expensive, the mass quantities produced result in its low prices.

Fun Fact

  • Saarinen's tulip chair is best known as the model for the captain's chairs on the original Star Trek television series.

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References

  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Tilo Erwin
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