Plain, Simple, Useful. The America folding metal chair

Once upon a time there was a chair, a plain, simple, useful and inexpensive folding metal chair, which appeared in cupboards and sheds all over the nation. The Conran Shop’s America chair was not the first folding chair to grace our homes but it is my favourite. And it is my favourite folding chair because of the incredibly great value price-tag it comes with… just £12.95. Or at least it did, as this chair has now been discontinued and there is very little information about this chair.

habitat macadam folding metal chair office 001
Habitat Macadam chair

But of course, there are many other versions of the chair including the Macadam by Habitat who are the rightful owners of this chair when it was introduced into their stores in the 1970s.

Now, we owe this product to the work of Sir Terence Conran, who opened the Habitat stores and later The Conran Shop which should help determine the origins of the chair, and in-turn the original version of the chair. If anyone knows which came first… the Macadam or the America then I would be delighted to update this post. It is not known if Terence Conran had a hand in the design of this chair but as a retailer he has put it in to both collections over the years so must also be fond of this utility product.

america-chair-macadam-chair-conran-shop-habitat

Now here comes the tricky part… because I am a fan of the Conran Shop’s version with the integrated curved brace bar at the back of the chair with a far more elegant way of connecting the legs. The front brace bar is welded on to the legs with a seamless joint making this chair a more sophisticated version of the classic folding chair.

When hung upside down, the America chair has a sturdy bar from which to hang, whereas the Macadam chair has the attached bars which look clumsy. In my view, the Macadam chair is precisely why folding chairs are given a bad name, they look cheap, rather than inexpensive. They appear unrefined to those of us that love the details of a product.

Habitat creative director Polly Dickens recently took a trip to the factory where the Macadam chair is made and the Habitat blog kept a nice record of the trip…

habitat macadam folding metal chair factory 001

habitat macadam folding metal chair factory 002

habitat macadam folding metal chair factory 003

I’m very lucky to have bought six America chairs before they were discontinued as the perfect temporary dining room. I love the utilitarian design that bring people together when more chairs can be added to those without seats. This chair was designed for large gatherings and therefore only brings with it good memories.

So begins my campaign for the Conran Shop to bring back the America chair. Plain, Simple, Useful.

In the absence of the America chair, you can still pick up the Macadam chair for £10 at Habitat, or join my crusade for detail.

habitat macadam folding metal chair office 002

Designer: Unknown
Manufacturer: Habitat and The Conran Shop
Year: 1970s
Price: £10.00 and £12.95

Daniel

Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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