Continuing from Part 1, in this installment I'll take a look at three creations which, although mostly derivative of Aarnio's Ball, also delivered some potentially useful improvements.

As Isaac Newton and Noel Gallagher both recognized, there's nothing wrong with standing on the shoulders of giants.  Not everything can be an unprecedented breakthrough, and there is often good value in incrementally improving and refining other people's ideas (as opposed to just blindly copying them).


3. Ovalia

This simple variation on Aarnio's sphere isn't quite an oval, as its name would imply, but more of an egg.  Indeed, its full name is Ovalia Egg Chair.  Danish designer Henrik Thor-Larsen unveiled it at the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in 1968, with production continuing until 1978.

The asymmetric egg shape, at least to my eyes, gives off an atomic 50s vibe, as opposed to the more streamlined shapes associated with late 60s space-age furniture.  The egg encloses the human form more tightly and has less overall volume than Aarnio's design, thus reducing the cost of materials but potentially creating problems for extreme claustrophobics.

As with a lot of other mid-century furniture, it wasn't until the millennium (and its appearance in a couple of well-known movies) that mainstream interest in Ovalia revived sufficiently to justify bringing it back into production.  That renewed interest also resulted in the deployment of an official web site with lots of photos and background information.

The concept of an egg-shaped chair was frequently copied by other companies during the 1970s.  The best-known variations, usually including integrated speakers and even interior lamps, were the Alpha Chamber (AKA Sound Chamber AKA Stereo Egg Chair) by Lee West, and the Egg Sound Chair by Starkey Laboratories.

4. Metallic Bubble Chair

This extreme reinterpretation of Aarnio's design was a one-off brainchild from the multi-talented Victor Lukens.  It was first displayed to the public in 1970 in the Contemplation Environments exhibition at Manhattan's Museum of Contemporary Crafts.

Lukens, bankrolled by his family's steel empire, was an eccentric visionary, with expertise in diverse disciplines including architecture, photography, film, art, race cars, and furniture design.  He designed not just the pictured chair, but also the entire contents and layout of his apartment.  Quoting from the Space Age Habitations section of Underground Interiors by Norma Skurka:

The metallic bubble chair works like a one-way mirror.  From the outside it reflects the images of the room and, in fact, the opening where one enters the chair is not readily seen.  But once inside, with legs curled up within the bubble, the sitter can survey the scene invisibly because the walls of the metallic bubble are transparent from within.

The polished chrome finish was undeniably beautiful and futuristic, but it could also feel like a fairground hall-of-mirrors.  As Time magazine put it:

Victor Lukens' reflective plastic chair tends to disorient rather than put its occupant at ease.

The chair's one-way mirror functionality, as described by Skurka, also begs an obvious question.  Under what scenario would Lukens (or anyoner else) want to hide themselves from view while spying on what other people were doing inside the same room ?

5. Elongated Pods

Back in the last century (late 1999 to be precise), I ended up renting a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles in order to fulfill some work commitments.

Although the living room was relatively small, I was (somewhat naively) determined to build a full-fledged home theater rig around a unique pod couch manufactured by Krypton Furniture in nearby Riverside.

I had mounted an extremely heavy projector on the wall so amateurishly that there was an overwhelming probability that it would crash to the ground during the next earthquake.  But surprisingly, although the mount kept drifting and had to be adjusted periodically, it never collapsed, and the whole rig performed above expectations for the two years during which I lived in Los Angeles.  The attached picture testifies to the precarious-yet-overachieving arrangement.

More interestingly, the extra width of the pod proved itself to be a superior solution for interaction in social situations.  It fitted up to three people, albeit in a slightly cramped way, and the uncomfortable isolation typical in ball or egg chairs was nonexistent.  The extra wide field of view also eliminated any claustrophobia for the inside occupants, while allowing conversation with people outside the pod at a variety of angles.

The pod couch also included two built-in speakers, which were used to deliver the two rear channels from my amplifier's surround output.  The pod's walls blocked out all sound at right angles, so having speakers inside the unit was an essential requirement for watching movies or TV with full 5.1 audio.

http://www.cous.de/furniture/sofas/sofa_hsh.html

I still own that Krypton pod couch (as well as their fantabulous but seemingly no-longer-made AristoCouch).  But unfortunately, given the personally verified benefits of a wider pod design, there aren't too many choices on the market if you're looking to seat more than one person.  In fact, the only other such couch I'm aware of is Home Sweet Home, pictured right.  It was designed by Uli Schmid and Christian Olufemi in 1996, and is manufactured by the German company Cous.  Its design is beautifully simple and modern, but it doesn't seem to include speakers, which creates a potential problem in terms of usage with audiovisual material.

The bottom line is that chairs and couches are tools meant to solve human problems, as opposed to works of art to be displayed for their own sake.  Different tools should be used for different purposes, and it pays to think beforehand about how a tool is going to be used before splurging a load of cash on a very expensive piece of furniture.

In the next installment, I'll wrap up the series by taking a look at a couple of bodysnatchers that tried to give their users a bit more flexibility under varying conditions.

Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007
| Print

Comments on this post

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

Howdy!

Wasn't there a stereo chair made in the 60's that was like an egg chair but was constructed of small geodesic form pieces? You could sit all the way back into it and listen to multiple speakers built inside the geodesic dome shaped chair.

Do you have any idea where photos or plans for a chair like that exists?

Thanks!
Tom
Left by Tom Sullivan on Apr 02, 2008 2:31 PM

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

To the best of my knowledge, nothing like that was produced commercially in the 60s, and the chairs in this series are the only ones that are fully enclosing and with speakers. But if you find it, let me know.

I know of some modern chairs with geodesic themes but I suspect this isn't quite what you mean:

http://funfurde.blogspot.com/2005/09/chair-one_25.html
Left by Carlos on Apr 02, 2008 3:28 PM

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

I have the single-wide version of that white/red pod couch in your pics. I've always thought it would be awesome for movies or video games even, if setup correctly. It's great to see someone actually did it!

While I'm here, I'll ask you a question that you may or may not be able to answer, but you appear to know your stuff so...

My pod chair is an original piece that I got for $200 complete with ottoman--the guy I bought it from got it when he was a kid and was finally tired of storing it. It has a metal number plate on the underside of the seat (if sitting in it it would be behind your knees) with the production number and Lee branding. It works great and it's really comfortable. I've been playing with the idea of reupholstering the interior but don't want to ruin an original piece such as this one. Do you think it's worth much?--I've seen new reproductions online that don't seem to have quite the same personality of the original. Any ideas for redoing the interior for it? Hope you can help! Thanks. Otherwise, love the site! Keep it up!
Left by michaelB on Apr 14, 2008 4:26 AM

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

I remember seeing one at auction while I was writing the article, similar to your condition, and I vaguely recall a $700 figure, however I'm not 100% sure if that was a final price or asking price or reserve price. If I was you, I would put it up on ebay with plenty of pictures and an impossibly high hidden reserve, and then see how much people bid. If the unrealistic reserve is hit you'll make out like a bandit, if not you'll at least know the market value.

In mint condition I saw someone ask for $2000 a few years ago, not sure if anybody accepted.
Left by Carlos on Apr 14, 2008 6:28 PM

# Another Egg Chair

Hey, cool post.

I was browsing through and thought I'd add a comment about a Personal Sound System Egg Chair made by Acousticom.com . Check it out at www.SoundEgg.com .
Left by Joel Cochran on Sep 08, 2009 11:47 AM

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

Hi there, I have an original two seater egg chair, not the version you have here. Mine is the rounded one, and I need the chord for the power source. On the bottom back of the chair are to round 6 prong male and female ports. Any idea where to find them or what might be compatible? Thanks, Tanya
Left by tanya on Nov 12, 2009 1:15 PM

# re: Seven Bodysnatching Pods (Part 2)

Superb creations, especially Ovalia, which aged more gracefully than other similar 70's creations.

Very nice collection, thanks for posting the pictures.

André Duval
livrer des fleurs
Left by André on Mar 29, 2012 8:03 AM

Your comment:

Please add 8 and 6 and type the answer here: