With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed, some of us will be on the hunt for an alternative spectator sport to enjoy this summer. I’ve got just the ticket – deckchair wrestling. Notoriously difficult to fold and unfold, onlookers across the globe can enjoy the unofficial grown-men-grappling-to-get-their-sun-loungers-up national championships. On every beach, in every garden, you’re guaranteed to witness some exasperated regular dude busting a gut, trying to figure out how he managed put it up the last time without injuring himself.

The struggle isn’t a modern phenomenon. Mankind has been waging war against the folding chair for centuries – there’s even a primitive version from 1500 B.C., proudly displayed in Egypt’s National Museum in Cairo, unearthed from the tomb of everyone’s favourite Pharaoh, Tutankhamun. Over the years, many have tried to refine and re-engineer this functional, but frustrating piece of furniture. Almost all had failed, until 1958, when Takeshi Nii launched the NY Lounge Chair, and upped the ante on the contemporary tubular steel and sling formula.

Takeshi Nii, designed the NY Chair in 1958 (1920 - 2007).

Born in 1920, Nii was the third-generation owner of a Kendo manufacturing company in the Tokushima province of Japan. There’s very little intel booting around about his education, or his life, other than a (probably misquoted) nugget about his egalitarian determination to, “make a chair, just like the curry rice that everybody loves”. Minimalistic Wiki facts aside, I’m guessing, that if your father and grandfather were badass enough to be making swords, shields and suits of armour, tasking yourself with creating a snazzed-up, eternally elegant folding chair was a walk in the cherry blossom filled park.

A longer footrest style in a Tokyo home, looks like the perfect spot for a siesta.

Inspired, no doubt, by the works of Marcel Breuer, Takeshi Nii created the NY Lounge Chair with laid-back, easy lounging in mind. To understand how revolutionary his deceptively simple seat was, you have to remember, that it emerged at a time when people’s homes were still full of dark, heavy and immovable wooden furniture. The notion of triumphantly sinking back into something that wouldn’t look out of place on the top deck of a ship, was a probably a step too far into the future for a lot of those stuffy mid-century types.

Named after Takeshi’s family name NY (which means ‘new’ in Danish) it offers hammock levels of comfort thanks to the sturdy sailcloth canvas being stretched over intersecting lines of angled steel. The result defies logic – you’re effectively floating, with only the companionship of two beech armrests for security. Luckily for Nii, attitudes to less traditional furniture shifted over time and the chair ended up becoming an international award winner. The NY Lounge Chair marked a serious milestone for folding chair innovation and by 1970, his design was so popular that it secured a place in the permanent collection at MOMA.

A NY chair folded away for easy storage.

The genius here boils down to practicality and normally, 5 inches isn’t something I’d get excited about, but in this instance, it’s a hallmark of quality. This reclining, no-frills relaxation station folds-up effortlessly and efficiently to a neat and tidy 5inches wide. For anyone living close to the Adsum store in Brooklyn, you’re the lucky ones. Why not stop by when lockdown is over? Then you can marvel in person, at how man, machine and mass-production were able to nail an object that you’ll never tire of parking your weary backside in.

Leanne Cloudsdale