A look at outdoor chair prototyping
Outdoor furniture is typically a one-size-fits-all endeavor, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to universal comfort. This was a big concern when we started Outer. We wanted to create a sofa that anyone could relax in, which meant taking into account a diverse range of body types, leg lengths, and padding preferences.
We also wanted something lightweight, but durable. Comfort was essential. People of all heights had to be able to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground (if they wanted to), and have decent back support. As simple as it sounds, this was no small feat. It required tireless prototyping, testing, scrapping, and trying again.
Finally, we found a version that begged all of us, even the most discerning of butts, to have a seat. Here’s how we did it.
The Best Sit
While no chair will fit everyone perfectly, we designed ours to offer the best “sit” for the broadest range of heights. We determined that for most people, this is somewhere between 38–42”, measured from floor to back-of-knee, back-of-knee to the front edge of the back cushion.
That way, you can sit up straight and your feet can rest comfortably on the ground. Back and legs have proper support—essential for comfort. Anything less than 38" and you tend to have a shallow "sit". Once you get deeper than 42" and you start to be in a perpetual slouch position.
Pretty much anyone can tell an indoor cushion from an outdoor one. Mainly because typical outdoor cushions are uncomfortable.
We wanted indoor comfort, outside. We also wanted to emphasize comfort in both the visual and physical sense—appeasing to the eye and the, uh, tush. We tinkered with our cushion dimensions until we found what we believe to be the perfect proportions. Our cushions are triple-layered to mimic the feeling of a firm mattress with good give, and they’re thicker than the frame of the couch, which catches the eye.
The chair frame itself is generous in proportion and size—comfortable for a range of body types. But we kept it relatively lightweight using innovative materials. Our frame is made aluminum and magnesium, with a powder coating that makes it weather resistant. Our HDPE wicker woven over the frame minimizes temperature absorption from the metal making it comfortable to use on the hottest and coldest days.
And there you have it, a chair for all, and all situations. Working sessions, long meals, a mid-day meditation—these things don’t typically happen outside, especially on a rusted chair with no padding. We like to think we’re competing with your office chair or indoor couch as much as we are with your weather-beaten patio furniture.
With these detailed innovations and more which we’ll highlight in the coming weeks, we all have yet another reason to grab a seat outdoors.