When it comes to choosing the right office chair, there is an incredible amount of choice out there, not least when it comes to selecting the fabric or material the chair is covered with. From thick wools to plastic finishes, the options available reflect the various wants and needs of the workspaces people need to sit down in.
We’ve put together a short guide going over some of the more important aspects to consider, and what to look out for when exploring the various options available.
For many people, this is the most important part of the decision process, and sadly where it often ends. How your chair fits into your overall interior plan is important, especially if you are buying a piece for your home, but the type of material you use might have an impact on the aesthetics too, especially if you buy something which doesn’t age well.
Luckily, many manufacturers offer a wide range of materials and fabrics, which means you can find a material that not only matches your colour expectations but is built to stand up to your individual requirements.
Let's take a look at some of the more popular materials available, and go over their particular advantages
Fabric is a very popular choice for office chairs. Not only does it offer the widest choice of colours and textures, but fabric is also characteristically hardwearing, making it suitable for regular use. Its softness makes it comfortable, and it is more suitable for cold environments when compared to leather or Vinyl.
The downside of fabrics is that they are harder to clean, so any spillages will require extra effort to restore your chair to its former glory. However, with the right techniques, this isn’t impossible.
Mesh chairs offer truly breathable comfort. They offer superb airflow to your body, making them great in warm environments. Whilst offering a high degree of comfort, some users prefer a standard fabric upholstery, especially if they are more susceptible to the cold.
Leather is often seen as a mark of luxury, offering an elegant or prestigious feel. However, this often comes with a price and is regularly the most expensive option. Whilst leather is easier to clean than fabric, keeping it out of prolonged direct sunlight and maintaining a regular upkeep program will be required in order to retain its natural beauty in the long run.
Plastic chairs are designed to be durable and affordable. Whilst they may not be as comfortable as an upholstered seat, the design of modern plastic seating has come a long way, and they can be far more comfortable than you think, especially if they include embedded cushioning. They are incredibly easy to maintain, resilient to spillages and often much lighter and compact.
Whilst plastic may not be a renewable material, recycled plastic has come a long way in recent years, meaning chairs made from recycled plastics that are as sturdy as non-recycled are now available from certain brands.
Sustainability is fast becoming one of the key issues for people when looking to purchase an item, including seating. When looking for sustainable materials, there are many labels or certificates that you can look out for, including the EU Ecolabel, Oeko-tex® or The Blue Angel. Plastic chairs are available in recycled or recyclable materials and are often labelled as such if they are.
At Flokk, we have been working towards sustainable solutions for nearly 30 years now, and have a wide variety of sustainable and environmentally friendly options. 14 out of our 18 standard upholsteries are certified under various eco-labels, including those mentioned above.
When purchasing a chair, there will be a host of additional bits of information which you can use to help identify your chair of choice. Below is a little bit of information about some of the most common things you will find.
The Martindale scale refers to durability, a unit that quantifies the resistance a fabric offers to abrasion. The higher the number, the more resistant a material is. Various national bodies specify minimum requirements when it comes to fabric uses. For example, the national German textile institute specifies a minimum of 10,000 for private use and 25,000 for office use with soft padding, which goes up to 15,000 when using hard padding.
At Flokk we seek out fabrics which offer high durability, and you will find most of our fabrics have a minimum of 100,000 Martindale, with some going considerably higher, making them incredibly long-lasting choices.
You should always check if the chair you are purchasing is made from materials that are flammability tested and certified. Look out for BS EN 1021: 1–2 (Cigarette & match) as a minimum requirement.
This refers to how resistant the material is to fading when exposed to light. The standard measurements are on an 8 level scale, 1 being very low, and 8 being exceptional. Ideally, you would look out for anything over 5, with 5 being “good, but much depends on how much light your chair is going to be exposed to. If a lot, then look for 6+ light fastness materials.
Pilling is when the surface of your fabric becomes uneven due to broken fibres in the textile. This will not only reduce the comfort of the chair but also upset the aesthetics. Much like light fastness, pilling is measured on materials through a scale. Fabrics graded with an ISO-12945 rating are given a rating between 1 and 5, with 1 being severe pilling and 5 being no change detected. Be sure to explore how a fabric’s pilling is measured if this is of importance to you.
The complexity in choice when it comes to office chair materials reflects the varying needs of people when it comes to seating. The best choice for you should be based on the environment it is for and the individual needs of the user.