Re: Chair seat height question

Ellis Walentine
According to my go-to book of anthropometric data for furniture and architecture, Human Dimension and Interior Space (Panero and Zelnik, 1979), ideal seat height is based on the "popliteal height" of the sitter, which ranges between 15 1/2 - 19.3 in. for men and 14 - 17 1/2 in. for women, and varies also with age, with the accepted universal height usually pegged between 16 and 17 inches from the floor. Seat height is calculated at the front edge of the seat, as most seats slant backward by some amount, depending on the design of the chair/seat. These numbers represent the average popliteal heights of people at the 5th and 95th percentile of height, so if these chairs are for a particular client or family, it would be good to know if they are of average stature, or taller or shorter, and vary the height accordingly.

Other things to consider are the table height (typically 29 - 30 in.) and the space between the seat and the apron rail of the table (minimum 7 1/2 in.). For taller tables, I'd increase the seat height, with the understanding that if seat height exceeds the popliteal height of the sitter, it will result in more pressure and possible discomfort at the back of the thigh. You don't want the legs of shorter diners falling asleep because you've designed the chairs for taller diners. :)

Foam "durometer" is a relative measurement of the hardness or compressibility of an elastic material such as foam rubber and has no absolute value. The important thing for you to know when designing with foam rubber -- especially in a seat-height calculation -- is what the actual compression will be when your customer sits on the chair, and even that isn't going to be a vital consideration, as there is no ideal seat height that fits everyone.

Ain't furniture design grand?


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