Nelson Swag Leg Chair

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Nelson Swag Leg Chair Independent Overall Rating: 9 of 10      [ how this works ]
9 out of 10 Stars

Price: Starting at $599

With high marks in all the criteria that we rank modern classic furniture, the Swag Leg Chair received 9 of 10 stars. It's one of the most recognizable chairs in the world, yet it can't possibly look ordinary in any setting and always looks sleek, and always feels good to sit in. Kudos to Nelson for this lasting contribution to the design world.



The Nelson Swag Leg Chair is one of the more elegant and classic examples of modern design in the Herman Miller catalogue. Its smooth surfaces and beautiful, tapered legs gathered in a kind of bouquet underneath the seat produce a beguiling and undeniably lovely effect. It’s also quite comfortable to boot, which is an improvement on the molded plastic chairs of Charles and Ray Eames that the chair closely resembles. As with the rest of the Nelson series, the chair is largely a showcase for the famous "swag legs" developed by the legendary George Nelson, and they are quite impressive. The chair is probably the most remarkable piece in the entire collection, and that’s really saying something.

That being said, this is certainly a "classic" chair, as opposed to a work chair. You might not want to buy this chair for your office, where wear and tear can take their toll and you often need a super-comfortable and supportive seat and seat back to work for long hours at you desk. However, it's perfect for the home and the home office. And even better when it's matched with another piece of furniture from the series; the Swag Leg Desk or Swag Leg Dining Table, for instance. It's very stylish, very beautiful, and it works perfectly well as a regular chair. It’s also designed by one of the greats, George Nelson, and that lends real historical value to owning this chair.

Nelson made a large amount of furniture for Herman Miller for many years, and even worked there as Director of Design. Along with Charles and Ray Eames, he and his furniture are a big reason why the company became and remains the top shelf American furniture company of the last and present century. This excellent chair is just one reason why.

DESIGNER: 10 of 10
10 of 10 Stars
George Nelson began his long career as a designer of note with an interest in architecture. He worked as a journalist and architectural critic for a while, providing searching and insightful articles on city layouts, buildings and more. Soon he began to work as a designer himself. His firt major accomplishment was probably the Storagewall, which was a full wall storage system with lots of different applications. No had seen anything quite like it before. Herman Miller was so impressed that they offered him the position of Director of Design on the spot, and Nelson accepted. Thus was cemented a truly great partnership between man and company. Both of them would rise in acclaim and stature as long as they worked together, and both would do some truly beautiful and lasting work.

It was Nelson who first brought Charles and Ray Eames into the fold at Herman Miller. He secured distribution rights to their soon-to-be-famous Eames Plywood Lounge Chair, and all of the sudden Herman Miller was booming. Nelson and Charles and Ray became friends, so much so that they actually gave him permission to use the look of their molded plastic chair when Nelson began to build the Nelson Swag Leg Chair. The design he came up with in the end featured some major departures from the Eames model, but the inspiration is unquestionably there in the piece.

But Nelson is not known only for his series of Swag Leg Chairs, Tables, and the Swag Leg Desk. He created a lot of furniture, in a lot of different molds. He made pop-art with the Marshmallow Sofa, a delightful combination of "dots" (padded discs) strung on metal support structures to create a shockingly comfortable sofa. He made the Coconut Chair, a totally elegant creation with a funny name and a funny inspiration; a quartered coconut. He made the Nelson Bench, which you’ve seen in practically every public park you’ve visited; light wooden slats form a light-filled bench. His list of achievements are too long to list in this review, but suffice it to say they were legion.

STYLE: 9 of 10
9 of 10 Stars
The Nelson Swag Leg Chair takes as its inspiration the Eames Molded Plastic Chair, which is a lovely piece of work. But the Nelson version goes further, and is more of an aesthetic success. Nelson added a cutout in the back, which allowed for more openness in the design, as well as more air to keep the user cool. He also added a hingepoint at the armrest, allowing the chair to bend and flex with a user.

The stylization of the chair is really interesting, because it’s a collaboration. Charles and Ray Eames are the spiritual designers of the top, with a hand from Nelson, and Nelson alone is responsible for the bottom, which is gorgeous. At the bottom of the chair he gathers the swag legs into a kind of bouquet; they come together at a midpoint but then flower out into the floor and the bottom of the chair, supporting it in all directions. The effect is very cool, and very attractive.

9 of 10 Stars
The Nelson Swag Leg Chair is innovative primarily because of the swag legs, the process of shaping legs which George Nelson “discovered” for furniture. The legs on this chair, as well as on the tables and the desk that come with it in the series, are one of a kind, and at the time had never been attempted or presented. They represent a real leap forward in the world of industrial design. Another innovation, more subtle, is the design for the top of the chair, which takes the Eames model and changes it, plays with it, even improves it. This would set off a sort of post-modern trend in which many chairs and pieces of furniture openly borrowed from, and were commentary on, earlier pieces. That’s a lot of innovation for just a single chair, but Nelson was a singularly gifted designer.
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