A Brief History of Indian Chairs

It so happens that India does not have a tradition of chairs! Which is not to say there’s been no tradition of seating. But not until the 20th century, after centuries of colonial influence, did we design living room seating.

Did you know…? That:

1. For thousands of years we did not have chairs…?!?!??

It seems strange that unlike the Chinese, Europeans, and even Egyptians, Indian civilizations did not have a culture of seating. One only needs to spend five minutes in the Design Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen dedicated entirely to Scandinavian chairs, to comprehend just how significant chairs have been in these other civilizations – not merely as décor and furniture pieces, but also as works of art and testaments to progress.

Turns out we were mostly sitting on the floor. Cross-legged. We even slept on the floor. This wasn’t a consequence of poverty – but was just functionally preferred as it required less maintenance – dusting and otherwise – to just use carpets, rugs (“dhurries”), and bolsters. In fact, old Indian mansions and palaces didn’t boast much furniture or décor; intricate carving and interior decorating were done mostly on doorways, pillars, and cabinets (almirahs). There was the occasional, charpaichatai, or jhula (swing), but nothing else – Indians were spartan as far as seating furniture was concerned. Some Buddhist monasteries had low seating stools which were later introduced to China. Residential seating, however, was never a thing.

An Ornately-Carved 19th Century Colonial Planters Chair; Photo Credit: Website selling Luxury, Collector’s Items www.1stdibs.com

2. The first Indian chair was the ‘Planters Chair,’ courtesy of our colonial masters

Once the Portuguese and British washed up on our shores, seating furniture became a thing. They commissioned carpenters to make chairs native to Spain and Portugal– hence, the popular ‘Planters Chair,’ a one-seater Lounge with nifty, extendable arms that are more often used as footstools than armrests. In the 18th century, the British introduced carpentry in teak and rosewood and, since then, British design sensibilities have been quintessential to Indian seating styles. Folding chairs or ‘Easy Chairs’ were also hot on the scene as these were most useful at military encampments and their retractable, folding mechanisms made them light, portable, and convenient in every sense. Indian carpenters introduced their singular craftsmanship in wood carving by carving intricate ornamentation on all furniture pieces. Till today, delicately carved antique doors, ceiling panels, and pillars are restored, upcycled, and sold as vintage furniture pieces in India and abroad.

Nizam is an Upgraded and Indianized version of the typical mid-century modern Lounge chair

Introducing Nizam: An Indian, mid-century modern rendition the Planters Chair

Sihasn’s Nizam, appropriately christened to connote sophistication and regality, has a clean mid-century modern structure that is heavily stuffed, cushioned, and padded to achieve levels of uber-comfort for slothful, Indian summer afternoons. Minimalistic in contours, it is designed to be maximalist on the cushioned surface, serving as a mannequin for vibrant Indian upholstery fabrics.

Nizam is in incredible canvas to experiment with a wide range of bright and vibrant Indian upholstery textiles

Nizam is unlike other mid-century modern loungers in the Western market as it has multi-functional and detachable surface, which is perfect for the glass of wine or binge-watching Netflix on your iPad. Stylish and photogenic, Nizam is well-positioned for an Insta profile of his own 😉

Outfitted with a nifty, detachable surface, Nizam is the ideal lounge chair for the Insta-Netflix times we live in