What is a Bubble Chair?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A bubble chair is a clear acrylic chair in the shape of a bubble which is suspended from the ceiling. This chair is an icon of 1960s design, and it has appeared on numerous magazine covers around the world, with and without occupants. Bubble chairs continue to be widely used in interior design, in schemes which are meant to evoke the 1960s along with more modern design schemes which utilize futuristic elements from previous eras.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

This chair was designed by Eero Aarnio, a Finnish designer who contributed a number of iconic pieces to 1960s design. Aarnio is widely credited with the introduction of plastics to furniture design, and with an innovative approach to interior design and furnituremaking which set his pieces apart from those of other designers while also contributing immensely to the look and feel of the 1960s.

The predecessor to the bubble chair was the ball chair, an Aarnio piece introduced in 1966. The ball chair was designed to be a “room within a room” but Aarnio wanted to change the way in which the chair and its occupant interacted with the surrounding environment. He thought it would be interesting to create an isolated bubble which was surrounded by light and sights from the outside, and realized his vision with acrylic blown into the shape of a bubble, with an ovoid opening, surrounded by a steel ring for reinforcement, to permit access to the chair.

One thing which makes the bubble chair interesting is that it literally upends traditional design. It is suspended from the ceiling with the use of a chain attached to the chair, rather than being supported from the floor. Because the chair is suspended from a chain, it also rotates and moves once someone is inside, creating a very different experience from a traditional chair.

This chair design is intriguing, because it isolates the sitter while simultaneously putting him or her in touch with the surrounding environment. The acoustics inside the chair are excellent, leading some interior designers to establish bubble chairs for auditory privacy in places like libraries, and the somewhat exhibitionist design has made the chair popular in environments where people are encouraged to interact with the space around them.

Numerous companies manufacture bubble chairs, including officially licensed versions and close mimics of the original bubble chair. It is advisable to get an experienced contractor to install the suspension for the bubble chair to confirm that it is safely anchored.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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