Chairs for Health

paimio chair

After interviewing medical staff and patients, Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino, also an architect, meticulously co-designed the interior of the Paimio sanatorium in southwest Finland, from door handles that would not catch the sleeve of a doctor’s coat, to sinks that muffled splashing sounds, to the tables, clocks, lighting fixtures, desks, stools, and chairs. One chair in particular, the austerely sensual bentwood known as the Paimio scroll chair (above, ca. 1929), allowed patients to recline, while slim back slats provided cooling and hand grips helped weakened invalids stand up. The Paimio chair was so attractive that it was soon imported into the interiors of avant-garde modernist homes.

Other chairs were designed for the health and recovery of ailing patients, like the Davos couch seen in the Schatzalp Sanatorium ca. 1900:

davos couch

At Saranac Lake, New York, consumptives sought a rest and fresh-air cure on these similar recliners, no matter the season:


In Indiana, a hickory manufacturing company began producing “comfort giving, rest inviting, health restoring, sanitary” chairs for use in hospitals and sanatoriums, as seen in this advertisement from 1930:

hickory chair


Thanks to historian Margaret Campbell.