I Tried It: Generation by Knoll Office Chair

I’m embarrassed to admit how far into the pandemic we got before I finally admitted that I needed to invest in a proper office chair. Up until that point, my home office setup consisted of a cute (read, rock-hard) cork bench propped at my dining room table or an equally hard and unsupportive dining chair at a side table about 5 inches too short to be appropriate. To say it was uncomfortable was an understatement. There were definitely mornings I spent more time doing neck and shoulder stretches to alleviate the results of this poor ergonomic setup than I did working.

I’ll admit, there were a few factors that went into my upgrade procrastination: 1) office chairs aren’t cheap! 2) they’re also not the most classically good-looking furniture 3) my inability to foresee that, 17 months later, we’d still be working from home either part- or full-time. So, when Knoll reached out about taking a spin in their highly evolved, highly ergonomic Generation chair, I figured I had nothing to lose but all those aches and pains.

The history

The first Generation chair was released in 2009 as a collaboration between Knoll and New Zealand–based design studio Formway. The team observed hundreds of hours’ worth of office footage to determine that most chairs don’t need to support just computer-facing work at a desk—the average worker adjusts their posture countless times throughout the day. This meant that the chair had to be responsive to any number of situations, leading to what became the ethos behind the design, as well as the tagline: “The first chair that lets you sit how you want.”

The specs

In that vein, perhaps the most striking thing you’ll notice when you sit in the Generation chair is its incredibly lightweight, flexible back. Whereas most office chairs that I’ve used in the past give you a fair amount of resistance and structure when you lean back, the Generation’s “Flex Back” is meant to be elastic and springy, but not so much so that you don’t feel supported in any position–though I have to say I was a little shocked at first by how bendy it really is. And, true to form, you can adjust how much give and take you’re comfortable with.

The Knoll Generation chair, pictured in white with a Pineapple seat and polished aluminum base.
The Knoll Generation chair, pictured in white with a Pineapple seat and polished aluminum base.

The seat cushion is also the most comfortable I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in. Not only is it appropriately padded, but it also has adjustable seat depths and angles that allow you to slide as close to or as far from the chair back or desk as you wish. It’s also flexible up to 270 degrees, if you’re someone like me who is constantly wiggling and shuffling in their seat. It’s clear how much engineering went into making the Generation happen: What might need manual adjustments and levers in an ordinary chair (especially for someone like me who is just above five feet) is a well oiled, automatic response.

The brand offers several ready-to-ship models, including a classic all-black chair with black frame, or a dandelion yellow, white or blue with a lighter gray frame. The chair can also be customized with a variety of back net and seat colors, as well as wheel types and base materials. A true blessing to anyone who’s been scarred by putting furniture together in the past, the chair ships fully assembled and ready to use straight out of the box.

Perhaps the only downside of the chair is the price, which starts at $916, though it is currently on sale for $824 through the end of the month. I don’t have a ton of solutions to offer, but I will say that it is 100% worth the investment, if you’re in the position to do so. In 2012, Knoll also launched the ReGeneration, a more streamlined and lightweight member of the Generation family that starts at $622.

The verdict

I can say with full certainty that using the Generation every day has alleviated the neck and shoulder pain I was experiencing in a very real way at the beginning of the pandemic. I also noticed that I feel less fatigued sitting in it for long stretches of time because I feel like it truly has my back behind the scenes. This the mark of well designed furniture: You don’t realize how hard it’s working for you until you’re forced to go without. My typical workday pre-Generation consisted of rotating through my uncomfortable workspaces and a fair amount of seeking relief in an armchair for different durations of time. As I write this, I’m working away from my apartment (sans Generation!) on a high-back wood dining chair, and the familiar knots are forming in real time. You really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Generation by Knoll

$916.00, Knoll

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest