The NYChairX is too distinct to be mistaken for anything else. The silhouette is a uniquely Japanese pairing of chrome and beechwood, outfitted with fabric sturdy enough for a sailboat. Designer Takeshi Nii started exploring the concept of a simple foldable chair in the late-1950s, although the final design wouldn’t be manufactured and sold until 1970. He was exacting, ever mindful of the small square footage of most Japanese homes, and strived to create a chair that could be neatly folded and stored when not needed. His ambitions were high; the chair needed to be stylish and sturdy, and he refused to budge on either front. Nii succeeded; some half-century later, the NYChairX is beloved by collectors worldwide and still in production.
Flip through Live Small/Live Modern: The Best of Beams at Home, a recent addition of the “At Home” book series from the venerable Japan-based retailer, and you can spot the design with ease. Yes, the chair is particularly beloved in its home country (most #nychairx posts on Instagram feature Japanese captions). Still, it has undoubtedly become a global commodity, especially here in the States. Upon its official release, it won numerous design awards and became a permanent feature of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. Among collectors and the design-minded, the chair’s reverence has only grown deeper and more profound.
As timing would have it, I noticed a weathered NYChairX pop up on my Instagram feed as I started to work on this story. "We actually found the chair in our neighborhood," says Kamissa Mort, a proud owner of a recently restored NYChairX. "It was in a free pile on a neighbor's lawn. After checking that they really didn't want it, we brought it home." Mort explains that she lives in a mini mecca of mid-century architecture in Southwest Portland, just the type of place where your neighbor likely has the same interest in furniture as you do. Mort and her wife Elizabeth Edwards live in an absolute stunner by Robert Rummer, a house so lovely (and well decorated) that it nabbed a Curbed feature a few years back.
The chair was in pretty rough shape, and the restoration was a team effort—Mort refinished the wooden arms, Edwards took on the cover. They ended up going with an off-white Carhartt canvas, used the old cover as a template and even smartly attached the old tags salvaged from the original materials. (Replacement covers are hard to come by in the States.) The design-loving couple was ecstatic, and for a good reason, a brand-new NYChairX runs about $880 and the ottoman is an additional $480. Beyond the price tag, it isn't exactly easy to get your hands on either in the United States.
However, there is Jinen, an online shop based out of Colorado that specializes in Japanese products. Other than that, your best bet is to find one used, which can be tricky. The week of writing this, Chairish only had two listings; 1stDibs had one, and I didn't find any on Etsy, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Most of the websites that sell the chair tend to cater directly to European and Asian markets.
The NYChairX recalls a few widely known concepts: a bit of director's chair, a hint of a folding lawn chair, and a sharp dose of Marcel Bruer's tubular signatures. Make no mistake, though: Nii's clever innovation is the backbone of the chair's longevity, both visually and from the perspective of industrial design. (The flagship style always stands upright, even when folded.) At the time, most furniture coming out of the mid-century modernism movement was all wood and leather, heavy objects that asserted its seriousness through wood and weight. Years later, much of that hulking furniture has not stood the test of time like the lightweight and airy NYChairX. Today, the chair's metal and wood frame is produced by a factory in Japan, and so is the top-grade Kurashiki sailcloth used for the cover. (By a factory that has been manufacturing the fabric since 1888, no less.) Takeshi Nii would be pleased.