Just about a year ago a friend told us about a batch of 180 vintage steel and molded plywood chairs on tender at a small town school. We jumped at the opportunity, without knowing how to get them to us, where to store them or even what to do with them. But we knew we would think of something.
The durable mid century school or church or scout hall chair all of us have used and know so well.
We learnt that this battered batch of tubular steel and peeling wood - in our minds held together merely by the ancient, pertrified chewing gum stuck underneath the seats - were in fact part of a family of chairs that marked a massive design breakthrough by Bauhaus heroes like Marcel Breuer in the early 1900’s: mass produced, cost effective, stacking chairs.
But designer or not, these chaps looked rough and so began the task to take them apart, strip the wood and clean the frames. We managed to rescue the better part of the batch by taking off the top layer of the plywood, filling the gaps and sanding them with a fine grain paper.
Then began the challenge to decide on colours (or not) and eventually we settled on a first series of Chappie Chairs with a simple combination of contrasting colours, inspired by American interior and furniture designer and architect, Alexander Girard (1907 – 1993).
The yellow seat Chappie Chair, a blue inside back and a light grey frame.Only a small hand full of the first edition Chappie Chairs are still available here.
After treating the plywood seats and backs, we sent them off to a paint finish specialist in Somerset West and had the frames powder coated locally.
Our second series was the Chappie Standard: a throwback to the natural school chair look with a glossy, slightly tinted varnish on the wood and black, dark or light grey frames.
But most successful was our third series: the Black Chappies. A combination between the Standard and the two tone effect of the Chappie Chair, these chairs have one panel (the inside back) and the frame in black and the rest of the wood au naturale with a satin finish.
The Black Chappie, available online here.
Since we got them, each Chappie Chair went through at least nine pairs of hands to become the product that you see on our website today.
Ali on the day the first Chappie Chair backs arrived from the paint shop.
The most recent Chappie Chairs are our super cute limited edition blue and yellow Baby Chappies with dark grey frames. They were not part of the original batch of 180, but a ten we bought from a nursery school that closed. They are available here.
The Huisraad Modern Baby Chappie
Hopefully this will not be the end of the Chappie experience. We still have a number of adult size frames left. Who knows, perhaps we should mold our own seats and backs, say, from recycled plastic?
I am pretty sure we will think of something.