The Senate chair has been in the Luxembourg garden of Paris since 1923, but the Luxembourg version redesigned by industrial designer Frédéric Sofia has become famous all over the world.
The Luxembourg chair is a reference in terms of design, and with its historical origin, it embodies a certain French art of living. Manufactured by Fermob, it can be found in gardens around the world, on café and restaurant terraces, but also in the outdoor spaces of Harvard University, Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech and Amsterdam Zoo.
In the 18th century, different models of chairs were placed in the Luxembourg Gardens, and their use was chargeable. Then the Senate, in 1955, imposes the only current model and, in 1974, it decides to make the chairs free. Originally, this chair was called Senate, because it is in the Luxembourg Gardens that the Luxembourg Palace, seat of the French Senate, is located.
No records on the design of this chair have been found in the French National Archives, but this green Senate chair, in steel, dates from 1923, and it was manufactured by the Ateliers de la ville de Paris. There are three historic steel models: the chair, the armchair and the recliner. “ In the 1990s, the Senate launched a call for tenders to renew the stock of chairs, and it was the company Fermob that won it and took charge of the manufacture of the chairs in the Luxembourg garden” , explains Frédéric Sofia, industrial designer of the Luxembourg chair, whom we contacted in Paris.
He admits to having always liked these chairs in the Luxembourg garden. “In 2001, Fermob approached me to design a range of accessories around Senate chairs. While doing this work, I had the idea of redesigning the chair in the Luxembourg garden. In the beginning, in 2003, there was the armchair and the small stool. Then in 2004, I proposed the Luxembourg chair”, specifies Frédéric Sofia.
He has always admired designers like Jasper Morrison and Philippe Starck who also redesigned furniture and design objects. Philippe Starck notably designed the Louis Ghost armchair, a reinterpretation of the Louis XVI style medallion armchair which dates from 1769.
“The redesign is very difficult to do, it’s the same chair, but different. You have to keep the spirit of the chair and the symbols that mark the collective unconscious while creating a design object, analyzes the designer. There is a historical origin, France is a country that is passionate about heritage, and this chair has become a symbol, because it comes from the Luxembourg garden. It is a historical and cultural encounter with contemporary design, which is what made the success of my Luxembourg chair. »
The Luxembourg chair is made of aluminum, very light, stackable, and is available in 24 colors, in addition to a model for children. There is also the entire Luxembourg collection, where we find the armchair, the bridge armchair with armrests and various models of tables, stools and benches.
“I think it’s one of the best-selling chairs in the world, whether in Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia, in private gardens, on the terraces of cafes, hotels and restaurants. . People have appropriated this chair and, for a designer, you couldn’t dream of anything better! I also like the democratic design, it is not an elitist chair, it crosses borders, but also it is affordable. At 239 euros [$347 CAD], it’s still a price, but for a quality designer chair that is part of the heritage, it’s accessible. »
When we walk in the Luxembourg garden today, it is always the chair and the Senate armchair that are arranged in the shaded paths of the famous garden, just like in the gardens of the Tuileries and the Royal Palace.
“The Luxembourg chair is everywhere in the world except in the Jardin du Luxembourg, where you sit on a more rustic chair and, let’s face it, not very comfortable. The French Senate is a very conservative institution, senators do not like change! That said, the Senate model is made of steel, it is much heavier than aluminum, explains Frédéric Sofia. This prevents the chair from being stolen in public gardens. »
The Luxembourg chair is available from Fermob.