The Uber-popular Aeron Chair Was First Made for Grandma

By: Alia Hoyt
The Aeron chair was first built for the elderly. Courtesy Herman Miller

To make it rain dollar bills, you have to work. Although some jobs are more active than others, many of us while away the workday with a chair and computer as our closest companions. So, a comfortable chair is a must. But, how much is the ultimate workplace comfort worth? For those who prefer the Aeron chair, made by furniture company Herman Miller, the answer is somewhere north of a thousand bucks. But many people think it's worth it.

Antonella Pisani first encountered an Aeron while working as an executive at Yahoo in 2004. "Everyone had them there, and Yahoo was very focused on setting up each work station to be optimal for the ergonomics of their workers," she says via email. Nowadays, she's spending even more time behind a desk getting startup Official Coupon Code off the ground and relies on her beloved Aeron to prevent some of the aches that threaten to accompany sedentary workdays. "The most important thing is that it doesn't put any pressure on the back of my legs, which many regular chairs do," she says. "That was happening with my last chair, and it would often lead to pain down to my calves." 


The Aeron dates way back to the early 1990s, when Herman Miller tasked a couple of seasoned furniture designers, Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, with creating a great chair for the elderly. The two men developed their "wish list" of chair features via input from seniors, since they spend significant amounts of time in chairs. The retirees reported the need for a cool (temperature-wise) chair that is friendly to the joints and easy to get in and out of.

The end result was a futuristic-looking (for the time) piece, trademarked by a woven suspension membrane that became known as the "Pellicle" seat and back. This breathable material flew in the face of the typical foam-padded seat cushions, and was specially developed to reduce heat buildup. A patented mechanism called the "Kinemat tilt" was created to help the chair move seamlessly with the user's natural body movements. And the chair was made almost entirely with recycled materials, well before being "green" was a widespread thing.

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The Aeron chair was first built for the elderly.
Courtesy Herman Miller

But there wasn't a market for high-end furniture for the elderly, and eventually Herman Miller pivoted to sell the chair to businesses. Following its mid-1990s launch, the Aeron became a staple of well-to-do offices looking to practice top-notch ergonomics. The Aeron chair thrived, even in the middle of the dot-com bust of the early 2000s.

While word-of-mouth satisfaction helped to spread the chair's reputation, a little PR didn't hurt, either. "Herman Miller has done a masterful job marketing to businesses and government entities alike, giving the Aeron chair a name recognition like no other chair in the industry," explains Kent Anderson, president of National Business Furniture.

But why does it cost so much (apart from the fact that it's a prestige product)? Ergonomic chairs in general are expensive, and experts attribute that to all the research needed to create them; their plethora of adjustables (seat height, back seat tension, arm rest height); and the fact that they are built to last. The Aeron chair has a 12-year warranty.

Of course, it's not the only ergonomic chair on the market. "I personally sit in the Nightingale CXO chair, which is priced similarly to the Aeron, but with a memory foam seat and mesh back," says Anderson. "I think it a much better chair for the money and as well made as anything on the market today."

And if you're dying for Aeron but need a lower price, consider the refurbished route. "The Aeron chair is well made and holds its integrity over time," says Donnie Reilly with Atlanta Office Liquidators, a commercial office furniture company. "If it does get damaged or malfunctions there are so many Aerons on the market that it's very easy to get replacement parts." Indeed, a quick internet search found many "pre-owned" Aeron chairs selling for under $500.