Though Emeco found early success with their original 1006 Navy Chair, the Pennsylvania-based company almost had to shut its doors for good in the late 1990′s. The 1006 was a solid chair, built from 80 percent recycled aluminum, and designed to Navy standards (one standard was that it could fit through the doors in a submarine). Even with the US Navy as its primary customer, Emeco was still facing near disaster. It was literally on the way to shutter the factory that owner Gregg Buchbinder realized two renown Architects, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster, had been ordering chairs directly from the factory. That realization changed both their product line and marketing strategy, breathing new life into the dying company. Now a decade and a half later they are going strong, with the 111 Chair as the newest member in their line of iconic designs.
The 111 chair is named for the amount of plastic bottles required to produce a single chair. It is a full plastic replica of the 1006 (even down to the faux welt points). The manufacturing process is very interesting, and you can read more about that through Emeco’s website. Being in the design field I test and specify all kinds of chairs, and I had one customer request these chairs specifically, before I had a chance to test one out for myself (which made me more than a little nervous). Thanks to the nearly 70 years of experience behind Emeco, I wasn’t disappointed but I made sure to get my hands on one right away after that! The chair itself is sturdy. Sometimes in plastic and composite chairs the legs can be a bit unstable, giving you a little bit of torque or swivel when you turn in them. With the bracing between the legs, the 111 is very firm and in fact you can read all about Emeco’s rigorous testing of the 111 here. The chair is lightweight, a plus for moving or carrying, but just don’t lean backward too far or you might find yourself on your back. The plastic seat is not something I would want to work all day in, but for shorter uses (like while eating) it is fine. The back of their chair hits me right under the shoulder blades, but at my height (6′) it was just low enough to not be uncomfortable. My two year old daughter has a habit of getting her feet stuck in the backs of chairs while sitting coloring on her knees, but the spacing between the pieces in the back of the chair are either large enough to avoid this, or small enough that it’s impossible. Its a funny thing to mention, but in our home it happens a lot in a couple of our vintage wooden chairs, and once she walked with a limp for an entire afternoon from having one foot really wedged. The smooth plastic surface is easy to clean food off of (again a common problem in a house full of kids) and Emeco recommends using water, spray cleaner (non bleach) and a non-abrasive pad. At a trade show I tested the finish durability of the plastic finish with a car key ( I know, but I had to test it..) and it produced a light scratch that you could feel. The chair had no other marks, but if your pants have buttons on the back you might end up scratching the seat a little. Emeco’s website says light scratches can be repaired with Lemon Pledge or Armorall. The 111 color range is bright and vibrant, with a couple nice neutral greys, but consider the use before buying a chair. They won’t get hot sitting in the sun like the aluminum versions, but only the Red, Snow, and Flint Grey are recommended for outdoor use as the rest may fade in direct sunlight. Also I would recommend ordering in full quantities, as with any recycled plastic product colors could vary slightly per batch. The clear glides on the bottom are designed to make the chair seem to float, and are replaceable if damaged. Overall the chair seemed sturdy but light, reasonably durable, and had a nicer price than its aluminum parent (only $230 compared with the $415 aluminum version). I am leery of using them in high traffic areas because of the scratching potential, but have had no complaints from lighter use.
Pros: lightweight, sturdy, bold and neutral color options, comfortable, easy to clean, eco friendly
Cons: not stackable, only six colors, may scratch, water might puddle on the seat during exterior use, not all colors all fade resistant insunlight