A brief history of the humble plastic chair (and its oil-free future)

Editor’s Note: Karim Rashid is one of this generation’s most prolific and celebrated designers. He was CNN Style’s guest editor for September 2015, writing a series of features on design in the digital age.

CNN  — 

I love plastic. I love plastic chairs. I always have and always will. Plastic has afforded a warm, soft, malleable, flexible, comfortable, lightweight democratic landscape heaped with innovation and infinite design possibilities. Without plastic we could never have accomplished the progressive world of healthcare, transportation, infrastructures, architecture, clothing, sports equipment, technology, appliances, packaging, and on and on.

At the same time, plastics have created a contaminated, toxic world that needs to be reconsidered and resolved.

There is great hope in biodegradable plastics, 100% recycled plastics, deriving plastics from sugar cane, plant-based and other renewable sources (interestingly these were used in the production of plastics in the early 1900s). New research and technologies can continue to shape a progressive plastic-material world, but with environmentally responsible and sustainable results.

One day we will live in a fantastic-plastic, technorganic world. But for now, let’s appreciate what we have, and take a quick tour of the history of the plastic chair.