Desk chairs

by Michael Alderete on 4/25/2005 · 6 comments

Alex asks for recommendations for desk chairs. I was going to answer in his comments, but it got to be long, so I thought I’d post here instead. I have three data points about desk chairs:

One, when I was in high school, we had one of those kneeling chairs (though a cheap one, without the back, not the nice one Alex is considering), which I spent many a late night in, writing papers for classes (in WordStar on an Apple IIe with a CP/M card, uphill, in the snow…). After a couple of hours, it always felt terrible; often I would go get a kitchen chair. And I was young and limber then, I can only imagine what they would do to me today.

Two, I worked for 14 months for one of those dot.bombs that immediately went out and spent their fresh VC dollars on Aeron chairs. I loved mine, and wanted to buy it when the end came. But the CEO made a deal with the landlord to resolve the lease/rent, and my chair was included. I was very sad. I still think about buying one. I suppose if the remodel ever ends, I may do that this year, if I continue to work at home.

Three, about two years ago, Rochelle got a great little size A chair from an excess sale at her job. It was a $500 chair when new, from a premium office furniture maker, so it was a great deal at $40 used. And getting the small size was perfect for Rochelle’s short body. (Finding someone who carries the small size can be difficult; they are almost always special orders.) Every once in a while, I’d sit in it for an hour or so, while admin’ing on her computer, and thought it was pretty comfortable, if too small for me. So, when her company had another salvage sale, we bought another chair, in my size, and I replaced my $150 Costco chair immediately.

After two months, the “better” chair had hurt my back pretty badly. I had a spinal x-ray, an MRI, and various other exams. I ended up doing two months of physical therapy, because we thought there was something else wrong. But it turned out to just be the chair. After an hour of sitting in it, I would be in pain. When I finally realized it, I gave it to my mother, and went back to the old Costco chair, and my back has been in decent shape since. And my mother loves the chair that hurt me.

You would think I would have noticed that the chair was hurting me sooner than I did. I mean, I was in a lot of pain. But, when I get in front of the computer, I get focused on other things. I just never noticed, until it got really bad.

Anyway, the point of this long third story is that expensive chairs are not necessarily better for your back, and every person needs a different chair. If you can, take your laptop or a stack of paperwork to the chair store, enough for a couple hours of work, and get them to set you up with a chair or two that you think you might want to buy. And then, work in each one for at least an hour. But an hour may not be long enough, so ask about return policies, and don’t buy where you can’t return it within 30 days. You’ll pay a higher price, but you’ll be sure you’re getting a chair that works for you. If you’re spending even 40 hours a week in it, it’s worth it.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg Knighton August 25, 2006 at 10:16 am

I honestly have just the solution for you, if you are looking for a high quality chair similar to the Aeron for much less. There was a chair that came out about 3-4 months ago called the Ergohuman Ergonomic Chair by Eurotech Seating. This chair is great because it comes with the same high quality mesh used on the Aeron, a “Legget and Platt” which has just the right amount of give in it. When trying out other Aeron knock-offs I found that the mesh used was usually too hard or too soft creating an uncomfortable seat if used for hours at a time. Another bonus that I had found with this chair was that it provide an ample amount of lower back support, something that I found the Aeron chair to lack. I have more than just myself sitting in this chair at times, and the great thing is it a one size fits all chair. The seat back moves up and down, while the seat pan slides back and forth. I have found them online for just over $500 brand new, and fully loaded. Compare that to the Aeron which comes fully loaded for around $1000.00 dollars!

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Jeff O'Hara September 19, 2006 at 7:28 pm

I have been looking at new chairs for quite some time now, and finally decided to bite the bullet. I was between a Leap Chair and an Aeron and was just searching for a Leap chair when I came across this chair by accident today actually. I fell in love with the chair and didn’t buy it and i’m glad I didn’t because I was able to research it and the place I sat in it at was overpriced about $100 bucks. I sat in the leather and the Mesh model and i preferred the leather model, but the mesh model was definately good. I purchased this chair online a few minutes ago and I can’t wait to get it because I like it a lot better than the aeron’s i’ve sat in. I’ve sat in a bunch of aeron type knockoffs and this is no knockoff that’s for sure. I recommend it if your looking for a highly ergonomical chair that is much less than an Aeron or a leap chair. BTW, i’ll be doing a full detailed review on my blog when I get the chair in.

-Jeff http://blog.zemote.com

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Amy Ennenga September 10, 2007 at 10:22 am

I can also contest to the comfort and adjustability of the Eurotech Ergohuman. I was just like many other people trying to jump on the Aeron bandwagon. But, I sat in an Aeron and wasn’t very impressed. I also couldn’t justify the $1,000 to my boss and began searching for someless less expensive. I found a lot of information on a new chair called the Ergohuman and was intrigued. I found a local dealer to sit in the chair and fell in love with the mesh high back. I was ablt to find it online for just under $600. I sit in for about 8 hours a day and think it is great.

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Lori Appleman November 12, 2007 at 3:55 pm

I’m on the bandwagon as far as considering the Ergohuman chair as one of the best values for ergonomic chairs, and it is amazingly comfortable, but I have access to most of the top name chairs and I personally have chosen to sit in a Humanscale Freedom chair. I like the simplicity of the chair, the way it looks and mostly the way it feels. The lumbar support is firmer and more supportive and the solid, foam seat is very comfortable. It also tilts without effort, levers or adjustments. The Freedom chair feels like it was made for my body. While it is more expensive, a basic model can be had under $700, I’m in my chair 10 hours a day and that money was well spent.

Anyway, some of what constitutes a great chair is subjective, solid design isn’t.

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Brian February 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I didn’t like the mesh seat on the Aeron chair. I settled on more reasonable Raynor Ergohuman mesh combo chair. The leather seat works better for me and I still got the look of a mesh chair.

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Gabe August 20, 2009 at 9:55 am

In case people can’t realize, all the above posts are paid posts by Ergohuman. You should give them as much credit as you would a commercial since that’s all they are. While their chairs may or may not be great, I’m not a fan of this sneaky type of advertising and thus am likely to not buy from them.

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