Rediscovering the Butterfly Chair

Sweet William sits in his Butterfly chair with Didi and Baba.

In the wake of the Chicago Tribune’s amazing exposé on flame retardants, it looks like California (and the rest of the country) is finally waking up to their dangers and moving toward greater restrictions on their use.

In the meantime, most of the furniture you see in showrooms is still soaked in the toxic stuff, so it pays to seek a safe alternative if you’re in the market for new furnishings.

It recently dawned on me that the cheapest, safest furniture cushion is no cushion, and I remembered the Butterfly chair I had in my college dorm room. Endlessly knocked off, the chair was originally designed by Jorge Ferrari-Harody in 1938 and introduced to the world at an interior design exhibition in Buenos Aires in 1940. Also called the Hardoy Chair, it was made of steel rods and a leather sling.

Today you can buy a take on the Butterfly chair at anywhere from Sears to Circa50 and eBay to CB2. Look around at flea markets for an old frame and buy a new sling (google “replacement sling butterfly chair“). You’ll see how versatile this chair can be.

Prices vary widely. Look for a machine-washable canvas sling, preferably one that isn’t treated with a stain repellant.

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