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Tub Chair

Updated on February 28, 2010

Tub Chairs

Tub chairs?  What are they and why do they have such a funny name?  Well, what they are is a chair with a deep semicircle shape almost like a tub cut in half long ways, they're also known as barrel chairs or captains chairs.  They're actually an old design, from about the turn of the 20th century, although probably influenced by chairs that are much older.

Nobody really knows who first designed the tub chair, deep chairs with a similar shape, (although they're a little more flat than a true tub) can be seen on Egyptian tombs.  Josef Hoffman was a leading designer of the tub chair.  He was an architect and designer of furniture who taught at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in the 19th century.  It's probably not surprising that at the turn of the 20th century people were fascinated with all things Egyptian due to  Howard Carters work, there and his copies of tomb heiroglyphics, and that this fascination influenced design. The Hoffman chair, is almost a modern leather version of King Tut's throne.  Although he is most known for his Arts and Crafts style, his later chair designs looked more Art Deco than their predecesors.  The Hoffman Style chair is a square, almost cube looking chair, very similar to a tub chair with straight lines.  It in turn has influenced modern design, and even made it's way into movies and TV.  Remember Captain Kirk's famous captains chair from the T.V. show?  It's a space age version of the Hoffman chair.   His famous Koller Chair of 1911 is the leather tub chair that we've come to know.  

Black Leather Tub Chair

by Irish Typepad via Flickr
by Irish Typepad via Flickr

Up until the 17th century or so, a chair was four legs, a flat seat and back. The French started padding their chairs, and making them more curved so that they would be more comfortable. You could say that the Windsor chair,or even a Shaker style chair with its elegant curved back is reminiscent of the tub, but he Victorians were the ones who really thought about comfort in their chairs. They were the first to add springs and overstuff them. In those days chair makers were on the bottom of the furniture making ladder, well below cabinet makers. That's why we have the names of the many famous cabinet makers (whose designs still bear their names) but who knows who invented what chair?

The original brown leather tub chair is still around, in exactly the same shape, and has become commonly seen in high end office furniture lines. It's a timeless look and even though the chair design it close to a hundred years old, it still looks modern, as does it's ancestor the Victorian club chair. Of course in our modern life, you can get almost any product in a huge range of designs and colors. If you want a black leather club chair from a high end furniture store, you can find one, or a red tub chair from your local retailer (a fabric tub chair of course). You can now get them with lots of bells and whistles too. The original chairs sat on four legs like the chairs of old, but now you can find a swivel tub chair. If you had a huge enough desk you could use it in your office, but they're more for a living room type of setting. Think of an easy chair, or swiveling recliner, that's very similar to what they would look like, they're good for turning around to see the television. If you're looking for a stylish, comfortable chair that looks good in many different types of decor, from traditional to modern then consider a tub chair.


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