Taking a swing at whimsical seating

BEIRUT: There’s nothing childish about the tried and true rocking chair, staple of old ladies knitting by the fire and old men enjoying some downtime on a shaded porch.

So why should a swinging chair be any different? Lebanese designer Nayef Francis’ latest offering aims to fuse a child’s sense of fun with an adult’s eye for interiors.

Exhibited for the first time at STATION as part of Beirut Design Week’s eclectic program of events, Francis’ swinging chairs consist of a metal frame upholstered in smart red leather, supported by lengths of pale beech wood and simple stainless steel cables.

“Every person that I know in my circle, they don’t want to grow up, you know?” Francis said. “It’s all about having fun. It’s all about enjoying the moment. So basically it caters to that. ... I wanted to break the conservative approach of any given space just adopting the usual chair, sofa and table. It’s all about creating a different momentum in the space, a playful dynamic.”

The swinging chairs are wider than an average dining chair and allow for ease of movement, a plus for those who prefer curling up or sitting with legs akimbo over the traditional straight-backed, feet on the floor posture.

“I designed it in a way so that if you want to sit and enjoy reading a book, for example, or let’s say watching TV or listening to music, or facing the sea or a view, you can sit on it comfortably and you can swing,” Francis said.

“It’s a bit nostalgic. As a kid in a playground, you would go first to ride on the swing, and people feel a bit nostalgic about it. They don’t feel intimidated or that it’s for children – on the contrary adults were really interested in it.”

Showing a new design for the first time is always nerve-wracking, Francis added, as audience reactions are impossible to predict. At the STATION weekend market the chairs proved a hit, however, attracting curious visitors of all ages keen to take a swing on the suspended seating.

Francis’ team is able to install the chairs in clients’ homes according to their instructions, the designer said, but he stressed that installation was simple and that no special skills or ceiling reinforcements were required. He hoped that the chairs would cater not only to the Lebanese market but also to clients in Europe and the U.S., who should find the chairs simple to set up in their own homes.

Customized designs are also available, for a price. At $1,500 a pop, the chairs are not the cheapest on the market, particularly if you’re after a family set. But those who can afford to shell out a few hundred dollars extra can have the swings customized to match their interiors.

One client chose to swap the red upholstery for green vintage leather and the beech wood for polished steel, Francis said, while others might choose to have the materials treated for outdoor use.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2014, on page 2.




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