The iconic Ghost Chair. Photo via Kartell

THE GHOST CHAIR: A HISTORY

April 6, 2017

Chances are you’ve fallen in love with the Ghost Chair at some point in time—or at the very least one of these sleek clear chairs have caught your eye. Moreover, you may be considering bringing one of these Lucite creations into your own interiors, or those of a client. Before you click “add to cart,” let us give you a lesson in what will no doubt go down as one of the most iconic furniture designs of the 21st century.

Get to Know the Ghost Chair

The story of the Louis Ghost Chair, as it’s named, begins with a man named Louis XVI. You know—the king of France. During the reign of the 19-year-old monarch and his better half, Marie Antoinette, a renewed interested in classical Greek and Roman design developed, which manifested itself in all sorts of trendy architectural and interior design elements throughout the king’s reign. One such furnishing—a chair with a rectangular or round upholstered back, clean lines, column-like carved legs, and an exposed wood frame—had staying power, eventually earning the name of the monarch, becoming known as the Louis XVI Chair. This formal upholstered chair remains one of the most popular chair designs to this day, and is a timeless classic.

Designer Philippe Starck. Photo courtesy of STARCK
Designer Philippe Starck. Photo courtesy of STARCK

Philippe Starck, the Man Behind It All

The Louis XVI chair has seen all manner of designer interpretations, but for the most part they are all in the way of upholstery fabric and paint color choice. However, a French designer by the name of Philippe Starck had something else in mind. Born in 1949, Starck, a school dropout, kick-started his career by designing a pair of nightclub interiors in Paris in the 1970s, a time when using Lucite (clear plastic) as a material for furniture and décor was all the rage. The Frenchman has since become one of the world’s most acclaimed designers, known for his subversive and cheeky approach to design. The Philippe Starck Ghost Chair is a perfect example of that signature style…

Antique Furniture, Renewed

It was only fitting that Starck would be daring enough to mess with royal style. In 2002, Starck reinvented the classic Louis XVI armchair for Italian design company Kartell, which is known for its innovative use of plastics. The designer distilled the antique furniture piece down into one silhouette, translating its round, medallion-shaped backrest, curved arms, and straight legs into a single clear plastic chair. Calling upon not only the reign of Louis XVI, but on ancient Greek geometry, the chair was a triumph of postmodern times. As Starck himself said, the chair “has a mix of materials and styles based on our shared memories. We all own this piece in a way.” Needless to stay, it was an instant success.

Starck and Kartell's Ghost Chair
Starck and Kartell’s Ghost Chair. Photography via Kartell.

Kartell’s Innovative Polycarbonate

One of the greatest features of the Ghost Chair is not immediately apparent to the eye—it’s how it’s made. The iconic chair required significant technical innovation: It’s made of a transparent injection-molded polycarbonate, which uses a single mold. This means that the entire chair is just one piece—no screws, upholstery, or separate arms and legs. Because it’s plastic, and because there are no joints (which could freeze or crack in the rain or cold), it does particularly well outdoors. So, it is an indoor/outdoor chair.

A far cry from its stuffy (and heavy) ancestral armchair, the Louis Ghost Chair is also quite thin, lightweight, and easy to lift and move around. Better yet, it’s stackable (up to six chairs high)—so it’s a fine choice for entertaining venues and small spaces.

kartell_louis
The Ghost Chair. Photography via Kartell.

The Legacy of the Ghost Chair

Fifteen years after its release, the Ghost Chair remains a pervasive fixture in residential and commercial interiors. Starck and Kartell also released coordinating pieces: the Victoria Ghost Chair (a clear armless side chair), One More Counter Stool (a clear armless counter stool), One More Barstool (an armless barstool), and the Charles Ghost Stool (a transparent backless stool). Furthermore, all furniture pieces in the Ghost family have debuted in a beautiful palette of transparent candy colors, as well as glossy black and white matte. The Ghost Chair has even been released in a miniature size, “Lou Lou Ghost,”—because kids need designer furniture, too!

Beyond Starck’s own purview, we’ve seen the Ghost Chair influence countless other contemporary designs. There are, of course, the straightforward knockoffs, but numerous contemporary designers and furniture makers have debuted compelling, elegant, and playful Ghost “inspired” Lucite chair and furniture designs. The chair’s visually lightness and its ability to fade into the background have made it a prime pick for small spaces where visual clutter collects quickly.

Making the Louis Ghost Your Own

One of the most exciting developments of the Ghost Chair is how it’s interpreted and styled once it makes it into one’s own home. The chair naturally looks at home in modern interiors, but given its historical shape, it fits snugly in more traditional spaces as well. Often, the clear chair’s sleek polycarbonate form is just the moment of relief a formal room needs. When accessorized with decorative accents, like throw pillows, books, or magazines, the Ghost Chair makes home décor appear to magically float—it’s the best kind of trompe l’oeil.

Though some designers and industry insiders feel that the Ghost Chair has passed its prime, we’re confident this iconic chair is not going anywhere. Sneak it in somewhere… a ghost is spookiest when it’s least expected.