Kaare Klint Safari Chairs: Early & Later


I’m interested in how furniture (and tool) designs change. Typically the trajectory is toward entropy or dissolution. But sometimes it goes the other way (see Lie-Nielsen and Veritas handplanes.)

safari_klint1_detailThis week I have been deep into reading the Kaare Klint monograph by Gorm Harkaer. It is a staggering work in both scale and scope. Harkaer covers everything from Klint’s paintings to his sculpture, logo designs and (of course) furniture. It’s the second-most expensive book I own, but I don’t regret a penny.

Today I was examining some of the photos of Klint’s Safari chair, which was born from the Roorkee chair of the campaign-furniture era. The above photo is one of the earliest chairs from 1933.

The legs are teak. And note the folded over and stitched leather arms. Oh and I couldn’t resist noting that the screws are clocked.

Later chairs were mahogany or “smoked” ash, according to Harkaer. “Smoking” involves coloring the ash with ammonia steam.

The chair below is a 1953 version in smoked ash with a canvas seat. Note we now have the familiar non-stitched arms. I much prefer the stitched arms. They sag a lot less over time.


Other interesting details from the monograph:

  • The seat coverings were available in leather, undyed linen drill or canvas in brown blue or olive.
  • After Klint’s death, his son designed a footstool to go with the chair.
  • More than 150,000 official Safari chairs have been made since 1933.

— Christopher Schwarz


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3 Responses to Kaare Klint Safari Chairs: Early & Later

  1. nofiberfear says:

    I grew up with a chair similar in style and function to this one though all of the straight wood was turned into large, chunky, balusters. My parents picked these chairs up on the coast of Turkey in the early 1950’s as they were popular in coffee houses at that time. Seeing your blog post brought them back to my memory and now I must go dig them out of the storage facility to inspect them further. Thank you.

  2. martybacke says:

    So these chairs didn’t have any thigh support. Was that the case for all his chairs. That must have taken a bit away from their comfort.

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