My Journey to Find the Best Home Office Chair

Update: Read the 2nd part of the story here.

I’ve been using a very old Sitoca chair which I’ve had for almost 20 years now as my daily work chair. It has no ergonimic features whatsoever and gave me incredible upper and lower backpain all these years. When the chair fabric started to rip and the stuffing come out I knew it was time to get a new one.

However, finding the ‘best’ chair for myself wasn’t as straight forward as I’d initially expected.

Enter the Chadwick

The Chadwick Chair

I first read about the Chadwick chair thanks to John Gruber of DaringFireball where he tweeted his recommendation of it. Brett Terpstra also purchased one and loves it. I don’t know either John or Brett but have been appreciating their work online for quite sometime now and I totally respect their opinions on things. These are people I trust for their pursuit of good design and functionality.

After doing some research online I loved the way that the Chadwick chair looked and took a sauntered into the Knoll showroom in Singapore to try it out. Now I’m not trying to be biased or anything but the experience that I had with Knoll was not good. Here’s a brief outline of what happened:

  1. When I walked in no one acknowledged that I was there. I had to request for someone to serve me before anyone even bothered to see what I was doing. This isn’t entirely fair as they serve mostly corporate customers, but still!

  2. I happened upon the Chadwick tucked away at the back of the store and when I asked how much it was the girl attending to me couldn’t tell and said that she’d get someone to follow up with me. 3 weeks later there was no reply even with 2 follow up emails to her.

  3. I finally got in touch with a salesperson and he told me that the price of the chair was $1,299. Quite steep for just a chair so I thanked him and said that if I ever got some money to buy it I would. 2 months later I got a nice bonus at work and decided to buy it but when I tried to contact the salesperson again and again I got nothing. 3 weeks later he finally sent me an invoice and the price was now $2,000. I was shocked to say the least. When asked why the price had increased so much he said that their promotion price had ended and they had to individually place an order for the chair from the US. This included a 12-15 week delivery lead time.

They tried to recommend the other models of chairs to me but by this time I was really disappointed by Knoll and decided to try out all the other chairs that I could find in Singapore.

The Alternatives

I was cheesed off by the high price of the Chadwick so I decided to check out what other options I had available to me.

In Singapore, everyone in the construction industry knows about Comfort Furniture. It’s the largest and best known supplier of ‘affordable’ furniture. I spent 1 1/2 hours in their showroom trying out all their chairs but nothing really stuck with me. I spent about 20 mins jumping from one model to another until I’d boiled down my choices to two of them (I forget what they were called). One cost $300 and had no features whatsoever but was O-K comfort wise. The other was $450 and had adjustable arm rests and a tilt-stop level but only marginally more comfortable than the former. Both of them were however nothing special to look at. I dislike the overuse of shiny chrome metal finish that is applied to the legs and the back, it’s just not classy. They looked and felt cheap. I didn’t want to blow money on a chair to end up regretting it and having to replace it a couple of years down the road.

A quick search online for ‘best office chair’ reveals the surprisingly decent Ikea Markus Chair for $299 with a eye popping 10 year warrenty. But I didn’t like the feel of it. Too rickety feeling and I don’t like high back chairs. Also as I have relatively longer arms than the average man, I need adjustable height arm rests otherwise I get incredible strain in my shoulders by the end of the day.

The supposedly most famous task chair is the Aeon by Herman Miller and that was selling for $1,699 due to a promotion coinciding with the 20th anniversary. The usual price is $2,049. I tried the Aeon and it is comfortable but not noticably better than the Chadwick. I don’t like how the upper part of the back of the chair fans out making the chair look more bulky than it is. Also the chair on promotion has metalic legs which I don’t like (I’m fussy that way). Somehow the simple black finish of the Chadwick still appeals to me more. Ironically the designer of the Aeon Chair, Don Chadwick, is the designer of the Chadwick Chair.

The last chair that I tried happened to be my second most favourite chair. I happened upon an ad for the Wilkhahn ON Office Chair and paid their Singapore showroom a visit. The chair is exquisitely made, very sturdy and very comfortable to sit on. Matthias, my host, hailed from Belgium and he explained to me how all the leather is all stitched by hand in Germany. Impressive. The most basic model (mesh backing, plastic base) comes in at $1,100 which is cheaper than the Chadwick but I didn’t like how bulky the chair appears. What caught my eye however was the more elegant Modus Compact.

The Modus Compact

From the moment I sat in it I was impressed. It has a very solid feel and the back support was amazing. This is a chair I felt I could sit in and type for days and not feel the strain. I loved how tactile it felt when it clicked as I activated the tilt stop lever and how comfortable it was overall. If I wasn’t going to be able to get the Chadwick at least I could get this one. The only drawback was the lack of adjustable arm rests. Matthias also teased that this chair was more popular with the ladies due to it’s slimmer appearance. At $1,670 it’s still cheaper than the Aeon but not by much and doesn’t have half the bells and whistles that Herman Miller tags on… but oh boy, what a satisfying chair it is!

Decision Time

So after all that research I still didn’t have any clear conclusion. I’d sat on a dozen chairs but wasn’t prepared to give up on getting a Chadwick just yet.

I tried calling up the Knoll salesperson again and asked him if it was possible for me to purchase one of their display models. He said he’d check with his marketing people. 2 weeks passed and (predictably) I received no follow-up.

I even tried ordering the chair from the official Knoll website in the US where the chair retails for $689 USD. But after filling in all the details I discovered that they don’t ship to Singapore. Bummer.

Even Amazon sells the chair but again aggravatingly does not ship to Singapore. What the??

It felt like as though I would never get a Chadwick chair.

At this point I’d spent months searching and researching on chairs and still gotten nowhere. A less stubborn man would have just gotten any old chair and been content with it but I wasn’t. This would be the chair I’d be sitting on daily for hours at end and my rear end had to like it. I’m simply not content with buying the cheapest or going for the most convenient option because the only thing I’m afraid of is being disappointed. I’m most content when the value I get from a purchase far exceeds the cost I paid for it. A lot of the things I’ve bought for myself thankfully fall into that category and I didn’t want to make an exception in this case having long convinced myself that the Chadwick was the best chair for me.

But at this point I was tired of all the hunting, the disappointment, the pain in my back and my bum. I needed a new chair and I was very very tired of waiting. So I finally decided that I would get the Modus chair from Wilkhahn the only other chair that felt good and delighted me.

But just as I was about to place an order for the Modus something unexpected happened…

To be continued

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