Folding Stools

Folding or Propeller Stool. First drawing by a student of Kaare Klint in 1930 and first prototype made in 1956

Stool PK91 designed by Poul Kjærholm in 1961 and made by E Kold Christensen


Foldestole / Folding Chairs and stools

In the display of chairs at Designmuseum Danmark, they are grouped by type and the first group, on the chart of the museum typography of Danish Chairs in the introduction, and the first section as you go through to the main display are stools. Not just stools but specifically folding stools. Initially this seems slightly odd - simply because stools are not, by definition, chairs. But actually this does make several important points that a visitor - with only a general understanding of furniture history - might not have thought about.

It is stating the obvious here that a stool is not a chair because a stool does not have a back to lean against and, to complete this statement of the obvious, a bench is not a stool  … although, by an extension of logic, a bench might be seen as a series of stools in line because, again, generally, a bench does not have a back …. generally because in England, for instance, a park bench will often have a back.

Stools and benches in the early history of the home were much much more common than chairs because chairs were and are much more difficult to make … leaning back in a chair means that a lot of stress and pressure is placed on the frame of the chair and in order for the chair to be comfortable - so someone wants to lean back - the back has to be set at an angle, rather than perpendicular, and given at least some shaping and has to reflect the proportions of the person sitting down so, again to state the obvious, if a chair has a head rest it has to be at the right height to be behind the head.

To make a stool is generally much easier and much cheaper. They just have to have three legs (or more) and a surface to sit on that is generally flat and generally raised around 40cm from the ground. So early homes - and particularly the homes of poorer families - would have benches and stools and possibly no chairs or at most one or two chairs that would have been considered to be prize possessions.

This point that chairs are or, at least, were, until the beginning of the 20th century, special items of furniture explains in part why chair design and the making of good chairs was given such attention. Most of the chairs in the exhibition are valuable because they have survived but also most were expensive when they were first made. So part of the point of the exhibition is to show how designers and manufacturers in Denmark worked through the 20th century to produce not just better and better chairs - in terms of construction and comfort - but also chairs that ordinary families can afford to buy. So now, most homes have chairs rather than stools.

But the stools shown in the design museum are of a specific and less common form with X-shaped frames that fold so this makes another important point for they show designers and cabinetmakers in Denmark trying out ideas and testing materials so, at the very beginning of the display, you see how important ingenuity is in the work of Danish cabinetmakers and for the design of good furniture in Denmark.