What Are The Advantages Of A Mesh Office Chair? Is One Right For You?

Aeron mesh chair

Aeron Mesh Chair - Herman Miller

Imagine it's another red hot July day. You have been sitting at your desk for several hours.

When you go to get up, your body sticks to the office chair through your lightweight summer clothing.

You are sweating, even though the air conditioning is set to a temperature only experienced in the Arctic. How can this be?

The thick upholstery is the culprit. Combined with the foam padding, which acts as insulation, the material is trapping your body heat against your body.

So you sweat. Fortunately there is an answer to the problem.

How did mesh upholstery change the office chair market?
The idea of a mesh office chair really started back in the early 1990s with Herman Miller’s Aeron chair. It took a radically different approach to office chair design and key amongst its new ideas was open mesh upholstery called the pellicle.

The major benefit of this new form of upholstery was that it allowed air circulation around the user’s body and so kept them cool on hot summer days.

This quickly prompted competitors to come up with their own version of mesh upholstery and now wherever you look you see them. Many are designed to be Aeron lookalikes due to its popularity.

Why are mesh chairs so popular?
People like the idea of a chair which allows air to circulate and keep them cool. Also the stylish looks of mesh chairs enhance their appeal too.

It’s these feature that have made Miller’s Aeron one of the most desired office chairs of all time. The problem is that not everyone can afford its $600 price tag.

Consequently when competitors churn out cheaper me too versions it opens up the market for people to experience the benefits of keeping cool at work.

However you have to realize that the upholstery on a $100 mesh chair is a far cry from the quality of the Aeron’s pellicle. Good air circulation is one thing, however without proper support it’s not a good idea.

How do you select a good mesh office chair?
One of the mistakes people make is buying a mesh chair just for its looks. The problem is it’s very easy to make them look sexy and whilst it’s fair to say that any mesh will allow better air circulation that’s of little use if it’s uncomfortable and doesn't give the right support to your body.

A number of manufacturers have invested a lot of time and money to come up with advanced mesh designs which give the correct support and still allow good air circulation.

Humanscale is a good example. Its Liberty and Diffrient World chairs both use a special triple membrane open mesh upholstery. Not only do you get the benefits of keeping cool on hot days you also gain proper support enabling you to work long hours in comfort.

There are some people who may find mesh upholstery is not for them.

When is a mesh chair a bad choice?
People who like a chair with a lot of padding may find the change to mesh difficult. The reason is that it tends to be a much firmer surface to sit on. This is particularly true of the Aeron, its pellicle really is quite firm and takes some getting used to.

Lighter framed people are the most likely to feel discomfort. Because they have less flesh to cushion them, mesh can quickly become uncomfortable to sit in. So if you are light built and find sitting on hard surfaces uncomfortable you could have problems.

One alternative is to consider a seat like Herman Miller’s Embody. Although this isn't a mesh chair it uses a breathable fabric and has a unique method of support. When you sit on it you feel as though you are floating. This removes the harsh pressure found with some meshes while allowing good personal comfort for those who sweat a lot.

Let’s quickly round up the points we've covered:

  • Mesh allows great air circulation to minimize sweating
  • Mesh chairs all began with the Aeron
  • Although cheap mesh chairs abound they often have lousy body support
  • Go beyond just looks; choose a mesh which will support you properly
  • If you like well padded seats mesh may not be for you

Further Information
Here’s where you can find more on mesh chairs like the Aeron, Liberty and Diffrient World as well as alternative solutions like the Embody.


What Makes A Classic Office Chair? And Why Do Some Companies Continue To Produce Old Chair Designs?


Eames Classic Leather Chair

80 years ago no man would have left the house without wearing a hat. These days it’s hard to imagine doing such a thing.

And yet, for those who choose to wear a classic hat today, it definitely makes a statement about the wearer.

The right hat can look very distinctive and really set the owner apart from the crowd. Classic office chairs are a bit like that.


What is a classic office chair?
It’s simply a chair which has sold well over a period of many years. Manufacturers decide to keep some models in production as they have already written off the cost of tooling and so can continue to make the product relatively cheaply.

Typically, classic office seats have very simple lines and as a result continue to look impressive regardless of current fashions and designs.

How does an office chair reach classic status?
Usually it’s because they have a certain timeless quality about them. They often feature in advertising or are used in reception areas where people like to use them to give an air of quality and good taste to surroundings.

Obviously from the manufacturer’s point of view there still needs to be demand for them and so this a key motivation for the main players in this area of the seating market.

Which companies continue to make classic chairs?
There are two companies most closely associated with classic office chairs, Herman Miller and Knoll. Although Herman Miller is probably best known for its Aeron chair, it actually continues to make a number of seats first launched in the 1950s and earlier.

Particularly popular are many of the chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames who seemed to have a knack for designing seating with simple classic lines that just look good no matter what era they appear in.

Knoll’s classic designs go back even further to the 1930s. And the Barcelona chair designed by architect Mies van der Rohe still has a huge following. It can be found in many reception areas because it just looks so good in this environment with its chrome and black leather. Mind you it takes deep pockets to own one.

Why are classic chairs so expensive?
I suppose one of the reasons they cost so much is the companies producing them aren't under any pressure to sell then cheaply. They are seen as a status symbol and so there is a certain snobbery or cachet about them.

Also, whilst the tooling costs have long been absorbed it probably does create a level of disruption on the production line where high volume models are being made. Of course if you are prepared to turn a blind eye you can save a lot of money.

Should you consider buying a lookalike version?
Inevitably, other manufacturers turn out fake versions at a fraction of the cost of the genuine article. Some of them are very good and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference unless you looked really closely at them. Others are extremely poor quality with inferior leather and poor standards of workmanship and are best avoided.

So, to summarize the points I've covered, here’s a quick resume of the key points

  • Classic chairs have a certain timeless quality and can create a positive image
  • It’s worth companies to continue offering them because they can get profitable sales
  • They can make important areas in offices really stand out from the crowd
  • The genuine article will set you back a considerable sum of money
  • It’s possible to buy good quality alternatives if you are not too choosy

Classic office chairs will continue to be offered both now and in the future and yet others will become classics, if they haven't done so already. Herman Miller’s Aeron chair will surely be added to their ranks and become the seating equivalent of a homburg hat.

Here's where you can find more information on some great classic chairs which will probably still be being made 100 years from now.


What Is The Best Office Chair For Short People? Fixing The Discomfort Dilemma

When you need to buy a new pair of shoes chances are you know pretty much what size you need to purchase to make sure you get a good fit. Generally speaking it’s likely you will find new shoes will be the same size each time, so it’s easy to find comfortable footwear.

Why is the right chair important for short people?
Buying an office chair is really little different to shopping for shoes. Just as you wouldn’t buy a pair of size 10 shoes when you take a 6, you need to make sure that the chair you choose is a good fit.

There's a problem though. You see office chairs aren't the same as shoes they don't tend to come in set sizes. They might be offered with low, medium or high backs. However that's more of a feature rather than a good fit. In fact, apart from the Aeron, which does come in 3 different sizes to cater for different body shapes it tends to be, one size fits all.

Average built people often get by as chair manufacturers target the typical sized person whatever that is. However, if you're short built chances are buying a one size fits all chair will only lead to disappointment and discomfort. Nonetheless with a little careful planning, it is possible to get a chair designed to suit your build.

What essential features do short people need?
When shopping for a new chair there are usually 2 major problems smaller framed people encounter and need to get right.

First, the majority of chairs have a fixed seat and so the seat depth can't be adjusted. This often presents a major challenge for those with a shorter leg length. Frequently they find that they end up sitting on the edge of the seat because the seat is too deep.

Fortunately there is a simple answer to this problem and what’s needed is to make sure the chairs you consider have a sliding seat adjustment. That way you get to set the seat’s depth to the proper position for comfortable working. Once you have the seat depth right your back is in contact with the back of the seat and so properly supported.

Second, short built people often find standard seat height adjustment ranges don't work for them. Frequently the seat doesn't go low enough and so it’s not possible to place your feet on the floor. This soon makes working uncomfortable.

To get around this problem what is needed is to replace the standard gas lift with a smaller strut. Most good seating manufacturers offer alternative gas lift struts.

Here's a quick tip for making sure you get the right size. Slip off your shoes, stand up and measure from the floor to the inside of your knee joint. Use that dimension to make sure the seat height can adjust at least an inch above and below it and you should be able to get your feet square and comfortable on the floor.

Whilst a change of gas lift won’t add much to the cost of a chair, unfortunately chairs with sliding seat adjusters do cost more, starting around the $300 level. It would be a mistake to buy a chair without these 2 features if you want to escape discomfort. So much for essential features, what should you be wary of?

What features should be avoided?
Although this may seem obvious many people tend to buy chairs on looks. Often something big and bold looks impressive and yet for shorter built people this can only result in disastrous discomfort. So resist buying chairs that merely look great. A good fit is what matters if you want to be comfortable.

Avoid chairs that don’t allow you to adjust the tilt tension. This is the setting that controls the amount of body weight needed to move the chair back. You want to be able to recline in a relaxed way and not feel you have to wrestle with your chair’s back.

Steer clear of fixed arms, they rarely suit the correct height to support your arms and shoulders comfortably. It’s much better to go for adjustable arms or even no arms when your budget is tight. Many chairs allow you to fit them at a later date. So lets see if we can shortlist some good options for seats for shorter folk.

Which chairs will work well for you?
Although you probably don't like the idea you have to realize that to get the right chair for your needs you probably need to spend between $300 and $600 and maybe more. Ouch! That's likely a lot more than you anticipated. Even so if you want to gain working comfort this is the sort of investment you need to be making.

Norwegian manufacturer HAG makes some excellent chairs to suit short people. HAG was the first company to offer sliding seat adjustment and understands the importance of working comfort. Take a look at either its H04 or H05 models

Neutral Posture is another company which specializes in seating for specific people. Its 5000 series chairs come with a huge range of options to suit your needs.

Herman Miller’s Aeron chair should also work well for you. It comes in 3 sizes and it’s likely that size A will be the most suitable model. There's a handy size chart to make sure it’s the right fit. Its open mesh upholstery is great in hot weather, although it’s a firmer sitting position than a foam padded chair.

Lets quickly recap on the key points we've covered:

  • Standard office chairs rarely work well for short people
  • Make sure you can adjust the seat’s depth
  • Check the height range suits your leg length
  • Avoid buying chairs on looks
  • Budget for at least a $300 to $600 outlay
  • Go for tilt tension adjustment
  • Avoid fixed arms
  • Look for manufacturers who understand your needs

Just like buying shoes, the right chair needs to fit you properly if you want true comfort. Here's where you can find more about the suggested seats from HAG, Neutral Posture and Herman Miller.


Replace The Office Chair Turkey – Day 3 Herman Miller

For day 3 of replace the office chair turkey it's time to call on the other office seating giant Herman Miller which has the distinction of producing what has become the best known chair brand in the world, the Aeron®.

Since launch in 1994 the chair has been hugely successful and features on many peoples' wish list of their ideal chair.

It is a great chair for those preferring a firm seating position and like the idea of good air circulation on those hot summer days.

Miller actually has many models in its different ranges and one which has been creating quite a buzz is the Embody, launched a year ago and already proving highly popular with office workers and some users report it feels like they are floating when sitting in it.

You can read more about these 2 highly popular models in these reviews.


Tomorrow I'll be looking at Neutral Posture which has quietly built an enviable reputation for producing some excellent office seating solutions over the past 20 years.

Links to earlier articles in this series
Gobble Up The Office Chair Turkey This Thanksgiving
Replace The Office Chair Turkey – Day 1 HÅG Seating
Replace The Office Chair Turkey – Day 2 Steelcase


Are People Overlooking the Real Value of a Quality Office Chair?

“aeron chair may be smartest investment i ever made, 7 years later,
it is still going strong. $0.31 / day… i got my moneys worth”

This recent tweet on Twitter shows the importance of applying the right mindset when buying an office chair.

Here is someone who bit the bullet and shelled out $800 for an Aeron® and was prepared to do so because they viewed it as a long term investment.

And 7 years later they are still deriving the benefits that a good chair can bring long after they got over the shock of the initial outlay.

Whilst I realize not everyone has $800 to spend on an office chair, those who can afford it should bear in mind it's likely they would buy 3 budget chairs over the same time period as well as suffering from a lack of comfort cheap chairs usually bring.

An Aeron® is far from the only quality office chair in town, simply the best known, here are several others which will last you 7 years and more along with their daily cost of ownership.


And when you take into account the great comfort, support and productivity any of these chairs will give you then the price no longer seems so daunting.


Tired Of Back Pain And Discomfort From Your Office Chair?

Even the best office chairs will give us some discomfort occasionally, especially when you sit in one for hours without getting up for a stretch or break, the human body simply isn't designed to be locked in the same position for hours at a time.

If you study yourself as you work, you'll likely discover when pain and discomfort begin to set in, your unconscious reaction is to move and vary the way you are sitting. This is your body's way of telling you what you're doing is unhealthy and you need to activate your muscles, get things moving and blood flowing through the arteries.

So, it's important to make sure you sit in a high quality office chair ergonomically designed to move as you move and give proper support to your body all day long.

With that said, simply having a good chair doesn't mean you can ignore the way you sit in it and interact with it. You need to address your work properly making sure you have your monitor set at a comfortable reading distance so you aren't craning your neck forwards as you strain to read the screen.

Slouching is another common bad habit and this is all too easy to slip into particularly with cheaper budget chairs as they tend to force us to sit in a fairly rigid way usually at 90° and slouching is a means of trying to escape this straight jacketed posture.

More and more office chairs are being designed to give people a more open seating position where the angle at the hips is 110° or more. In the past this has presented manufacturers with a challenge because as users recline in their seats they lost visual contact with their screen and reclining tipped them up in the air.

Fortunately, a number of quality products now allow you to recline and stay in contact visually and bodily with your work area. Additionally, they also correctly support the back, neck and shoulders moving as you move allowing you to decide how you choose to sit and this all helps to greatly reduce niggling back pain, aches and discomfort.

Chairs worth taking a look at include the Embody, Leap, Aeron and Futu.


Why Aeron Chairs and IBM PCs Are Intrinsically Linked

Back in the day, IBM made a lot of sales to big corporations because it was perceived as a safe bet, it was the biggest and made quality products. The underlying rationale of many buyers was nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.

And I'm the first to admit I still use an IBM clicky keyboard, date of manufacture 19 May 1993, still looks like new , weighs 2 kgs and it's built like a tank.

In many respects the same logic is true in office chairs Herman Miller's Aeron, is if you like the IBM of office seating. It's probably the best known office chair of all time and with over a 1,000,000 in use worldwide it's also likely sold more than any other model too.

For all that, good as the Aeron is, it's not necessarily the best chair ever, but it's certainly the most successful.

In the quality end of the chair market there is a number of chairs which are its equal and some would argue are better.

Some like Steelcase's Leap and Think or Humanscale's Freedom chair are quite well known, others like HÅG's Capisco and its excellent recently introduced Futu model are less well known.

And while it's true to say you probably wouldn't go wrong buying an Aeron, it's also fair to say there are a lot of very good quality alternatives many will overlook because the makers lack the big budget marketing machines to make them better known.

I would encourage anyone looking to replace their chair to by all means look at the Aeron as well as giving consideration to some of these models as they could even become tomorrow's stars.


Aeron Chair Prices To Go Up

In a recent post I speculated whether a recent antitrust settlement by Herman Miller would mean cheaper Aerons.

Unfortunately, it seems that Aerons are going to cost more as Miller is planning a product wide price increase in August.

The likely indicative increase will be around 3% and is due to the cost of increased raw materials.


Are Aerons Going To Be Cheaper?

Are cheaper Aerons on the way? Probably not.

Earlier in the week Herman Miller, manufacturers of the legendary Aeron chair settled an antitrust lawsuit brought by New York State and Michigan and Illinois. Miller agreed to pay $750,000 to be split between them.

The suit came about due to Miller’s policy of insisting that their resellers didn't advertise the Aeron for less than the recommended price of $949.

Under the terms of the lawsuit they are still allowed to enforce the pricing policy but aren't allowed to communicate with any of their suppliers about it. The agreement will remain in force until 2010.

It all seems a bit pointless really and I don't expect it will affect the price of the Aeron.

It’s likely that online dealers were the target of Miller’s policy as they don't have the overheads that a traditional bricks and mortar dealer has.

It must be frustrating to have people visit your showroom, try the product and then search the net for a better price later. That’s probably the way with a lot of product purchases these days.

Here's where you can find the full story.

You can find out more about the Aeron range here.

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