Category Archives: Directors Chairs

The origins of a classic: The Director’s Chair

The origins of a classic: The Director’s Chair

The history of the Director’s Chair dates back a surprisingly long way, and has unusual origins for what is considered a simple piece of furniture.

Noted as the closest design to the current is the coffee-makers’ chairs of the 15th Century, but it’s amazing to think this simple, recognisable design could in fact date back as far as the Romans. Their Curule Chair (meansing “Chariot”) is oftern credited as the first ever version. Over the centuries it was used by royality, the military, and as far afield as the Pharaohs of Egyot. When the wealthy travelled, they sat on their own bespoke Curule Chair as a sign of their status. 

The modern American style Director's Chairs were introduced by the Gold Medal Camp Furniture Company in 1892, and featured at the 1893 World's Fair Columbian Exposition in Chicago where it won an award for excellence in casual furniture design.

What debuted was the design we most recognise today; a lightweight armchair that folds side-to-side with a scissor action, using a canvas or similar strong fabric for back and seat - although some say this design also has it roots in the Renaissance era. A rich history indeed for our simple friend.

In the 19th Century, reflecting its history as a seat of power, American directors began using the simple folding design on set, finally giving the chair its modern name and cementing the design into modern culture.

The chair came to Africa with the first Safaris, with the ability to fold it and its portability making it ideal for the nomadic safari life. It’s ideally suited to our outdoor lifestyle and is found in most bush camps and lodges, and on stoeps and patios alike. Designers and decorators have come to recognize that it makes both an attractive and functional chair to use in less traditional roles – as a home office chair or around boardroom tables, for dining and relaxation.

Construction of a Director’s Chair

Our humble Directors Chair, whilst simple in its design, cannot be overlooked for the importance of its construction. I’m sure we’ve all sat in some examples of this chair and not felt entirely at ease.

Having built several thousand Director’s Chairs, of many designs, over the last 25 years, I’m happy to say here at African Touch we pride ourselves on the perfect design and finish.

I believe the most important consideration when building a Director’s Chair are the joints used. The chair is built with relatively slim timber sections and is subject to considerable stresses in everyday use – it’s the users’ weight that makes the chair work, as your body pulls the canvas seat taut, and makes the chair stable.

The mortice and tenon joints must therefore be very accurately cut, and fit snugly so that when glue is applied they form an exceptionally strong bond. For those who are wondering, the mortice and tenon is one of the oldest joints used by artisans, and goes back thousands of years (used not only by woodworkers, but also stonemasons and blacksmiths). In its simplest form the tenon tongue is cut to fit the mortice hole snugly. If the joint is cut and glued correctly it will be stronger than the timber from which it is constructed. We don’t want any rocking chairs!

Next comes the choice of material, which is also critical. The material must not stretch, and it must be fitted in such as way so that when the chair is opened and sat on, the bodies’ weight is taken up by the seat, pulling the material taut and giving the user comfort. If the weight is not distributed across the chair, the user will feel very uncomfortable – and unstable!

We offer three options for seat and back material. My favourite is the Safari pure veg tanned leather, which has a wonderful feel and thickness. The method of tanning and its weight means that the leather stretches very little and it very comfortable to sit in, even in very hot or cold weather.

The second option is a tough, heavy Ripstop Canvas. At 440g per square meter that’s very tough. The material is available in a variety of colours.

A third option is a proof cotton canvas that is very soft and comfortable to sit on. However, it must be doubled up and carefully stitched to give it the strength necessary. 

We offer the additional design feature of a wider seat, if needed, and our Deluxe chair has a deeper backrest that swivels to accommodate the best back angle for the user.  There is also the option of a broader armrest, with a convenient cup holder. Or you could opt for our clip on drinks tray – the choice is yours!

Why not add a piece of modern history to your home.

Victoria Bridge Table

Victoria Bridge Table

The atmosphere of a great dining experience comes from those who sit down together. The conversations, the aroma of the good food, the clinking of cutlery. It might not sound like it has anything to do with a furniture workshop, but this is actually what is on top of our minds when we design and make dining room tables - we aim to create the perfect stage for family dinners and lively get togethers.

Designing a solid wood table is half art and half ingenuity - we must make sure that the table looks beautiful, is as sturdy as a rock and will last indefinitely. Let's be honest, tables look simpler than, for instance, a cupboard. However, this simplicity requires expertise on how wood moves when you attach a large flat top on an underlying structure. Let's take a look at all the elements our craftsmen consider when putting together a beautiful, sturdy and durable dining table.

How many will be seated

When we design a table from scratch, we start with the basic practical considerations. A dining table needs to seat a family at least, and more people on special occasions. Our Victoria Falls Bridge Table comes in four standard sizes that can sit either six, eight, ten or 12 people comfortably. However, since all our furniture is made to order we also make tables according to our customers specifications. If you are unsure what size of table will fit in your dining room, send us the dimensions, the length and the width of the room, so that we can recommend a size that is right for you.

A top-down approach

The top is where all the action happens, and also the part that must first be sorted out when constructing a table. It is the most visual feature of the table, and we always choose the best possible wood for it. The top of our Victoria Bridge table is a thick solid slab of Zambezi Teak, carefully selected from the finest heartwood timber of the Zambezi teak tree.  As a matter of principle, we only use solid wood, you won't find any veneer or false edges on any of our furniture. We insist on delivering a product that is as exclusive as it is beautiful.

A leg to stand on

We use mostly Zambezi teak and unlike other timbers, it is so dense that it sinks in water. The result is that we must construct a base for the table that will stay stable despite its considerable weight. However, there is one caveat, the supporting structure also have a big impact on how a table looks. So besides making sure the table is sturdy, we also have to ensure that the supporting structure is elegantly designed.

We know wood.

Wood expands when the air is humid and shrinks when the air is dry. This means that your table top will literally move with the seasons. When this is not taken into account, it may become distorted or even break due to internal stress. We anticipate and allow for this natural movement when designing our tables. You may see a slightly different wood colour where a portion that was previously covered becomes exposed, but over time it will all blend to a similar colour. However, a table bought from The African Touch is guaranteed to remain sturdy for years to come.

Time proven design and construction

The same mindset applies throughout the assembly of our furniture. We use joints such as the mortice and tenon, dovetail & sliding dovetail, expanded tenon, and half lap that have been used by woodworkers all over the world for thousands of years. Over the years our craftsmen, most of whom have over twenty years’ experience as part of the team, have become experts in techniques such as this and in producing one quality piece of furniture after the other.

The sum total of all of this is a table that is strikingly beautiful, sturdy as a rock and durable enough to be regarded as a future heirloom. Each table we make is made to order, giving us the opportunity to incorporate every client’s individual requirements. Ordering furniture from The African Touch is a completely different experience from picking out pieces in a showroom in that your furniture will be truly yours.