Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History” as Want to Read:
Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  101 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Have you ever wondered where rocking chairs came from, or why cheap plastic chairs are suddenly everywhere?

In Now I Sit Me Down, the distinguished architect and writer Witold Rybczynski chronicles the history of the chair from the folding stools of pharaonic Egypt to the ubiquitous stackable monobloc chairs of today. He tells the stories of the inventor of the bentwood cha
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Now I Sit Me Down, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Now I Sit Me Down

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  101 ratings  ·  29 reviews

More filters
Sort order
I guess the chair I was sitting in was too comfortable because I dozed right off whenever I tried to read this book.
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Needs more pictures but otherwise a solid book about chairs.
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'll never look at a chair again without the deepest appreciation for what went into making it, how it fits into the long line of perfect and not so perfect brother and sister chairs, and the distinct personality it brings to its setting. The author has a conversational style of writing that is both informative and appealing. He sees the humor in human folly and rarely takes the high road when it comes to fashion and taste, but is very diplomatic in his aesthetic observations, giving careful not ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This Natural History follows roughly chronological events in the development of chairs and lounges, including upholstered, folding, and plastic. The author brings up anecdotes and chairs he has owned as comparisons, covering a decent history of chair design and art impact.

Drawings are small monochrome sketches, and sometimes this isn't enough to visualize a chair well. Fortunately, a nearby internet provides plenty of other options, at the risk of interrupting the narrative. I also wanted to kno
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just engrossing! I have a new appreciation for chairs. Loved this book.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A little dry at times and so I'm giving it only three stars.

I giggled at the school desks to improve student posture from the 1880s - seatbelt restraints, forehead restraints, and face rests. Oh my! How would my modern day students respond to this type of seating in my classroom! Eek!

I learned that I have Cabriole chairs in my dining room (modern day ones made by an Amish man. The Amish man designed my kitchen chairs with a Windsor look. Who knew?!? I have three bentwood chairs that are over 100
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Are you sitting in a chair? This book probably covers where that chair fits into the history of chairs. One thing that's important: chairs don't always evolve to get better; after all they still make chairs copying or influenced by the Greek klismos chair. They mostly change according to available technology, and the culture of how we sit: upright, leaning or just outright lounging. There's a chair to epitomize each era of chair history. Alas, the quintessential chair of modern times is the plas ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
-1 star: I would have loved an appendix of illustration that did not earn a place in the body of the text. Knowing nothing (I think) about designers and architects, being able to see all models to which the author referred would have helped me understand.

Neat quotes and stuff I learned:

(p120-21) Seamless tubular steel, as in the bends of a bicycle handlebar, inspired Marcel Breuer's 'Wassily Chair', and "was the first technical innovatoin in furniture-making since Michael Thonet developed bentwo
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was something I saw on the new book shelves at the public library. A "history of the chair" sounds a little esoteric, but we all sit on chairs - well, actually not everyone in the world routinely does, which is one of the background topics covered - but certainly those reading this book would be sitting on chairs much of the time and if chairs are so central to modern life it seemed worth giving this book a try.

The book is organized well and I zipped through it (which I consider a good thin
Lindsay Grinstead
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-art-history
Interesting book but you must have an extensive knowledge of the history of dec arts/chairs to fully appreciate the text because there are very few sketches of the different chairs. For me, personally, this made it hard to read as I was constantly stopping to look up terms and different chairs online. That being said, he does a good job of tracing chairs from the very beginning in a narrative way.
Christine Henry
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Witold Rybczynski is a wonderful writer who can be simultaneously lyrical and clear, exploring cultural meanings of the sitting position as well as the design innovations that have accompanied the evolution of how humans rest. He also explores the 19th-20th century design history of chairs as architecture with a critical eye. It is a great book both for architectural historians as well those interested in the cultural dimensions of design.
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Who would have thought that a history of chair design could be so interesting? I'll never look at a stool, chair, chaise lounge, couch, ottoman, chesterfield, side chair, futon, bean bag chair etcetera the same way ever again. Witold Rybcynski is not just a knowledgeable man regarding seating devices - he is also a very good writer.
Margaret Groves
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great education

Now where ever I go and there are chairs I'm able to better identify where and whom they originated from. I better understand as well the history of the world though the evolution of the chair.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, kindle, non-fiction

All kinds of chairs are treated here, but there's a definite focus on mid-20th-century Danish design.

Lisa K
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Good stuff and some moments of lovely prose, but just a little too much even for me, a dec arts enthusiast. Probably not for the general reader: for the design or architect student or professional.
Brice Fuqua
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A short, but encyclopedic survey of chair design, from the ancient Greek Klismos to today's plastic patio chair. No photographs, but nice, line drawings.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one needed more photographs of all the mentioned furniture and art. I spent a lot of time jumping back and forth from a google search and the text. Still a lot of fun!
Mary Catelli
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
A tale of chairs cross eras, from Egyptian onward. How China transitioned from floor mats to chairs. Swings. Other topics. (A bit too much on modern designers of chairs for my taste.)
Arturo Romo
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
Great history lessons form the sitting experience. This is totally worth it because you may have sat in one of the objects mentioned and now you will think of your own experience. The personal anecdotes from Professor Rybczynski are delightful. Must pick it up without hesitation and think of a great chair to mix it up!👌🏻
Zguba Salemenska
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A clear and concise review of something we overlook on a daily basis.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
"A chair is an everyday object with which the human body has an intimate relationship. You sit down in an armchair and it embraces you, you rub against it, you caress the fabric, touch the wood, grip the arms. It is this intimacy, not merely utility, that ultimately distinguishes a beautiful chair from a beautiful painting. If you sit on it, can it still be art? Perhaps it is more."

Indeed it is. I call this kind of book a nichestory (as in niche + history), and it's one of my favorite genres.

What a great book!! It's obviously written by an architect though as there is a lot of description and not much historical story telling. The author, however, does lace the book with personal stories about his life with chairs which is fun and personal. It was these personal stories that won me over with the book because you can clearly see (or read, I suppose) how fascinated the author is by chairs.

After wrapping up this book I now find myself scanning each room I enter and examining the chairs
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I so have enjoyed earlier books by Rybczynski, like 'Home' and "The Most Beautiful House in the World." Now a volume on the history of the chair. The title of the first chapter is 'A Tool for Sitting.' I love the way this man thinks.

This is more like 3 1/2 or 3 3/4 stars! Not as deep a dive as his books sometimes are. Fascinating examination of the different types of chairs and their purposes going back to the Egyptians. Chair styles change and reappear over time. Rybczynski quotes Ralph Caplan,
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Like a building, a chair combines artistry and function,” writes Witold Rybczynski in this interesting overview, which chronicles human behavior and artifacts. This is a history of chairs and sitting over the years.

Humans sit in at least a hundred positions around the world, with many preceding the chair, which became common in the twelfth century. A quarter of humanity squats at work and rest, a traditional position that intrigued me during my year in Vietnam.

Weekend Edition, Saturday Sep 3,
John Benson
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Witold Rybczynski, an architect and writer, has written previous books that helped laymen understand architecture more easily. I had not realized the strong connection between architecture and chairs until I read this book. He helps the reader understand have evolved from logs through to the fanciest office chairs. While I generally liked the book, the subject matter of the book is not one that is the most exciting topic.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-read

I read this mostly for my dissertation, I was hoping for more of a cultural history, but this was more of an evolution of the design of chairs. Also the drawings of the chairs were small black and white and I wish they, or some of them, had been larger full color, but I know that's not the author's fault. Still there were really interesting bits in here, and I can see myself using it as a reference in the future.
Jesse Jordan
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very engaging and enjoyable book. I'm a sucker for "a cultural history of" anything and this one did not disappoint. Being rather short it doesn't delve too deeply into any one aspect, but rather is a broad overview of the relationship between chairs and culture, fashion, technology, and the human body.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely and charming book. The author is delightfully nerdy about the chair that he loves and details the history of this ubiquitous, but surprisingly nuanced, piece of furniture.

2017 Book Challenge Category: A Book with Pictures
(Note, the pictures are small drawings of various chairs, to illustrate particular design elements)
Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it
be of good chair
rated it really liked it
May 12, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Modern Vintage Style: Using vintage pieces in the contemporary home
  • Imagined Lives: Portraits of unknown people
  • The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps
  • Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made
  • Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World
  • Arts and Ideas
  • The History of the Book in 100 Books: The Complete Story, From Egypt to E-Book
  • The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History
  • Cosmigraphics
  • Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them
  • The Nest Home Design Handbook
  • Sign Painters
  • Inheritance: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles
  • Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs
  • The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits
  • The Best American Infographics 2013
  • Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird
  • The Art Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
See similar books…
Witold Rybczynski was born in Edinburgh, of Polish parentage, raised in London, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He studied architecture at McGill University in Montreal, where he also taught for twenty years. He is currently the Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also co-edits the Wharton Real Estate Review. Rybczynski has ...more
“A chair is the first thing you need when you don't really need anything and is, therefore, a particularly compelling symbol of civilisation. (Attributed to Ralph Caplan)” 0 likes
More quotes…