Like many people who work out of a home office, my workspace began as a bit of a hodgepodge of re-purposed furniture along with a few new pieces that got the job done. The bulk of my budget was dedicated toward equipment: computers, monitors, printers and the like. This served me well during the years that I was writing on a part-time basis, but when I transitioned to full-time several years ago, I discovered that ergonomics were a lot more important when you’re at the keyboard for 8 hours or more every day (as opposed to a few hours in the evening). Last year I embarked on a project to upgrade my office. I kept it quirky and reflective of my somewhat geeky style, but the goal was to set up a workspace that wouldn’t land me in physiotherapy after a few years. The final piece of the puzzle was a tough one. The chair. I’d invested in an overstuffed, soft leather number way back when and over the years it’s become perfectly molded. The problem is that while it’s comfortable to lounge in for a few hours, as a work chair, it’s not exactly the poster child for ergonomics. I’ve been lusting after a Herman Miller Embody, the chair that epitomized what I wanted: comfortable, ergonomic, well built and a bit on the funky side. I was recently at a conference where a Herman Miller dealer was set up and spent an inordinate amount of time collapsed in an Embody while a sales rep insisted that there were ways to ratchet that $1,600 price tag down to a more pedestrian $1,200 or so -but if I have to lop off all the features, that’s kind of pointless. I also looked at models from Ergohuman and Steelcase, but they remained elusively difficult to justify. Enter Lexington Modern and the Future Chair.
I hadn’t heard of Lexington Modern before, but they came to my attention as the manufacturer of the Future Chair, a premium, ergonomic office chair that’s priced up there with those others (MSRP is $940); however, by ordering directly from the manufacturer, you can pick one up for $399, which is suddenly a very compelling price point. The question for me was: after spending hours in an Embody, would the Future Chair seem like a viable alternative, or feel like slumming it in a cheaper wannabe?
Lexington Modern shipped up a review model to try out. Delivery coincided with four feet of snow over several days that shut down Canada Post and courier deliveries in London (Ontario) for three days, and when the chair arrived the poor Fedex guy did not enjoy the experience of trying to haul the sizable box from the street up to my house with a hand trolley- a sled probably would have done better. The chair came in several pieces that took all of 10 minutes to assemble. Construction features a heavy, highly polished and reassuringly solid metal framework. I dragged it down to the office (all that metal means it’s not light) and set it up.
The model I was testing featured a black, all mesh back and seat, as well as an adjustable headrest. Low back and non-headrest versions are available, as is a leather seat or (low back only) an all leather option. Unlike other manufacturers that offer a fabric book full of color and pattern options, the Future Chair is available only in gray or black, so if colors are a deal breaker for you, this chair isn’t going to cut it. That being said, black and chrome make for a very sleek look. Where it counts -adjustability and comfort- the Future Chair hits all the right notes. The arm rests are fully adjustable (height, forward/backward and pivoting in and out), the headrest is height and angle adjustable, the seat slides forward and backward (as well as the expected pneumatic up and down), the chair can recline (with adjustable tension) and there’s adjustable lumbar support. The mesh fabric was breathable and flexible, but taunt enough to provide support across the entire back. They also included a “hanger” on the back of the chair for accommodating a jacket. Adjustment levers are intuitive, easy to access without having to get off the chair and clearly labeled. I was soon able to fine tune the chair to the point where it fits and supports me perfectly and have gone through several marathon writing sessions without feeling the least bit fatigued. My only issue has been that the adjustments for arm rest pivoting and headrest height are meant to be easily adjustable, but on the review unit, they were a little too easy to accidentally change. The headrest in particular, would slide down to its lowest position if someone were walk up and put their hand on it for support. The manufacturer says there should be enough tension to prevent this, so maybe the review unit has an issue, but I’d like to see the ability to lock those adjustments.
So, after several weeks of putting the Future Chair through its paces, is it indeed a worthy alternative to an Embody? I think it is. It doesn’t have the famous name on it, but the Future Chair doesn’t feel or look like a compromise, whereas the new lower end alternatives from the big manufacturers (like Herman Miller’s own SAYL) do. It’s comfortable, solid, adjustable and has that ultra-modern look. Minor quibbles like the lack of upholstery options and a few adjustments that I would have liked to see made lockable aside, the only thing I couldn’t account for is durability. While Herman Miller offers a 12 year warranty on its uber-chair, the Future Chair is backed for one year. However, having examined the mechanics and experienced the solid construction, I don’t see any obvious failure points in the chair that would leave me concerned about how it will perform after a few years of use. Stay tuned on that one, I guess.
Disclosure: Lexington Modern provided a Future Chair for this review.
Future Chair by Lexington Modern
MSRP (as tested): $940 (note: available for $399 direct)
Wired: Offers full range of ergonomic adjustments, solid build quality, very attractive and modern look, relative bargain price (when ordered direct).
Tired: Color options are limited, some adjustments (headrest height and arm rest pivots in particular) would benefit from either tighter stops or the ability to lock into position.