Bean Bag Chairs: A Brief History

Sunday, December 16, 2012
Everyone at one point or another has sat in a bean bag chair. Did it ever cross your mind to consider how they initially were conceived? Who originally invented them as well as when and why they became popular? In this article we look back at where it all began and where it is today. We present to you, the history of the bean bag chair.
The Sea Urchin Chair
The very first creation that looked similar to today's version is the Sea Urchin Chair. It was designed by Roger Dean while he was still in the Royal College of Art in 1965. Roger Dean is famous for his futuristic art on the album covers Yes and other bands. It was one of the first chairs which conformed and contoured to the users' body. It was a foam chair which appeared spherical but would shape itself to the form of the sitter.
The Sacco (aka The Socco)
The style that we are familiar with today came about in 1969. Italian designers Gatti, Paolini, and Teodora were working for a company in Italy called Zanotta Design. They were trying to create the right type of chair to market to the young, cool and hip generation. They needed a chair that was trendy, simple, and fit with the '60s way of life. The designers came up with the Sacco or the Socco as it was known in Europe.
The original Sacco's were shaped like a pear and made out of leather. The filling of choice was thermocol pellets and in time those were substituted with shredded urethane foam, polyurethane foam, Styrofoam, polystyrene beads, or PVC pellets. This newly designed chair became a very popular item, especially with college students.
Although it is not confirmed, there is a rumor that the Sacco's discovery was purely accidental. This rumor maintains that a Styrofoam factory put all the leftover pieces from the production line in a bag and thus created the very comfortable chair.
This Sacco is pretty much identical to the ones offered at department stores in the 1970's. However, unlike those, the Sacco used pure Styrofoam pellets, was made of high-quality leather, and has a headrest area at the top of the bag. It was similar in shape to a teardrop.
The Sacco became an instant success and was the must have furniture of the 70's. Because the Sacco placed the user very close to the floor and shaped to a variety of relaxing positions, it met the casual lifestyle of that time.

The '70s
The 1970's are the era when bean bag chairs made their way into the stores around the world and made them available to everyone. The chairs of that era were very similar to the more high-quality chairs of today which had a strong leather cover and were filled with thick Styrofoam pellets.
Consumers liked the feature that the chair shaped to each individual person's body type. Professional interior decorators also liked the flexibility of the chairs in design schemes. Therapists also noticed that the bean bag chair helped kids with sensory-integration problems. Additionally, doctors recommended to patients that were recovering from back surgery to recuperate using one.
The '90s
During the '90s, it went from a reputation of being cheaply made furniture to something very laid back and would meet a number of needs. Chairs of varying sizes and shapes made their way into today's market. Furniture, like bean bag recliners, sofas, footstools and more were made.
Also during the '90s, they became more safe for children. There are a number reported cases of children being injured and even suffocated to death after working their way inside the older style and being asphyxiated by inhaling the pellets.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 12,000,000 bean bags in March of 1995 and required that all chairs sold after that date must have zippers that were not able to be opened by children.
The chairs available today are typically made of fabric covers that are easily washable and don't rip as easily as the ones of the past. In addition, most bean bag manufacturers use urethane filler instead of Styrofoam. The reason behind this is urethane provides much more support and is more reliable than Styrofoam. Chairs of today are also filled with foam that is shredded which recovers its shape to prevent a bean bag from going "flat".
The bean bag chairs of today are super comfortable, stylish and are available in a number of sizes, colors and prints. Try them out; they're not like the bean bags that you may remember as a kid. The bean bag chair is making a comeback!


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