What is a Wiggle Chair?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Wiggle Chair is a chair developed by noted designer Frank Gehry in 1972. The chair shares aesthetics with landmark design from the 1960s and 1970s, including a curved structure and the use of unusual materials in construction. Several companies produce replicas of the Wiggle Chair today, at varying prices, and for those incorporating modern design into dollhouses, there are even miniature versions which are precise and highly detailed. Modern design pieces which coordinate with this classic chair are also available.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

This chair is made from cardboard which has been compressed together, with 60 layers of cardboard overall in the chair, faced with fiberboard on the edges. The layers are angled against each other for additional strength, creating an interesting textural appearance with waves and ripples throughout the chair. Hidden screws are used to hold the layers of cardboard together without distracting from the overall appearance of the chair.

The best way to describe the Wiggle Chair is to imagine a sheet of ribbon which has been folded on itself several times to create a series of curved folds, with the tail of the ribbon slanting back slightly from the folds to create the back of the chair. While the Wiggle Chair might sound fragile, it's actually extremely strong, and has been rated to hold thousands of pounds. The cardboard appearance, in other words, is deceptive, and the chair is quite sturdy.

This chair is part of the Easy Edges series, developed during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Gehry was very intrigued by the idea of playing with unusual and innovative materials, and the Wiggle Chair represents one of his most famous designs from this period. Other Easy Edges pieces work well aesthetically with the Wiggle Chair, including a side table developed with the same cardboard construction. Designers inspired by the series have created their own pieces with similar materials and appearances.

There are two finishes available for the Wiggle Chair. The natural finish leaves the cardboard untreated, while the chair with the white finish is painted white. Some people prefer the natural finish, which allows the natural variations and texture to show clearly, while others prefer the cleaner, crisper look of the white finish. People have also played with the basic form of the Wiggle Chair, using different materials such as plastics and creating versions such as translucent chairs which evoke the style and shape of the original.

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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I searched "Frank Gehry" and "wiggle chair." The design is fascinating, and his architecture is incredible. I'm not particularly keen on most modern art, but his work is very expressive and graceful.

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