Alice Thompson: My PH Chair

When is chair ‘not just a chair’? A chair becomes less of an inanimate piece of furniture and begins to feel like an essential ‘part of the family’ when it enters our homes and becomes an unspoken part of every day life. If our homes are our ‘castles’, then the furniture that we see, touch and smell everyday slowly becomes a collection of familiar and comforting defences against the pressures of the outside world.

The Poul Henningsen designed PH Chair arrived in my home about a one year ago, a gift from the dearest of friends. Unsure where to position it at first, eventually the PH Chair was found a place next to my desk. I had not particularly expected to actually sit in this chair a great deal and I perceived it as more of a ‘decorative item’, but very quickly my attitude towards it changed. The PH Chair - though carefully crafted and exquisitely finished - has it’s roots in the 1930s and the era of the Bauhaus movement. While it’s form is something wonderful to behold, the possibility for it to perform as a useful and functional everyday object is something I have since eminently discovered, as would be expected from a piece of furniture from this period in design history. Sometimes I use my PH Chair as a desk chair, sometimes as a dining chair and sometimes it represents a place to simply sit and to think. 

Architects and Archaeologists ‘read’ the history of a building by examining construction techniques used and structural qualities, noting and observing changes that have happened over time. It is definitely possible to read about my life through the furniture I have in my home in just the same way. When I bought a sofa for my first home at the age of twenty-one, I honestly had never expected that I would still own it many years later - the future was a phase in time that I could not imagine - and yet it is so. I have every reason to believe that in the decades ahead I will regard my PH Chair in the just the same way.

Already the leather of my PH Chair has begun to acquire a gentle and charming patina of ‘age’. As I have gained new lines on my face in the last year, my PH Chair has acquired beautiful creases of character. Now I feel that I could definitely pick my PH Chair out of a crowd of them. Already I feel a bond with this piece of furniture, it has lived with me through a significant chapter of my life. This chair no longer represents something transient - I expect to find myself interacting with this chair on a daily basis when we are both even older and our respective bodies are even more ‘lived in’ than they already are. 

Of course the furniture that we grow and ‘grow up’ with becomes an important part of the narrative of our lives, so choosing carefully the furniture that becomes part of our homes (and with longevity in mind) is so very important. Plato’s ‘Theory of Forms’ argued that physical objects cannot be ‘ideal forms’ as there cannot be a perfect representation of ‘form’ in the real world, but in the context of my contemporary life the PH Chair definitely comes close to what may be considered to be a ‘perfectly formed chair’. My PH Chair will join the collective of such meaningful furnishings and objects which represent the very framework of my own unique and very real world.

It is my observation that whether in our most desperate of times, in our moments of glory or just during the ups-and-downs of the plain old ‘everyday’, the people and things we as humans often grasp for and subconsciously value the most are the people and things who are simply always there for us. Whatever my mood, whatever the situation, I have come to think of my PH Chair as a ‘something’ that will always be there: I do not think that I will ever let it go.