The Tolix chair
Updated: May 14, 2022
This Tolix Chair, which has just celebrated its eighth decade, is still very up-to-date.
From its state of health, it isn't easy to guess its age since the A Chair, also called Tolix Chair, and the brand that manufactures it is living a second golden age. It is a universal design: from restaurants to hotels, through homes of very different styles, terraces, gardens, and offices. It is now an icon of modern design that can also be seen in museums worldwide, such as the Vitra Museum in Germany, the MOMA in New York, and the Pompidou in Paris.
You have probably seen this chair more than a hundred times, either in person or in the pages of a decorating or interior design magazine. It has been on the market for 80 years and is one of the best-selling chairs in the world. It is a versatile piece of furniture, which gives an industrial touch to any interior, but at the same time fits perfectly in a more classic, rustic, or even contemporary environment. The most coveted are the original pieces from the 50s and 60s, with the graphic design of 1956, in which the imprint of the passage of time is visible in the galvanized outer layer. They are collector's pieces, although they currently publish chairs that imitate that finish with touches of rust if you like that worn effect.
The history of Tolix begins in France at the hands of Xavier Pauchard. Pauchard's family had been involved in zinc processing for three generations when he started experimenting with the zinc galvanizing process. In 1907 Xavier discovered that he could use zinc to protect the metal from corrosion in a galvanizing process. Ten years later, and at the young age of 27, he founded his factory to produce galvanized steel furniture for the home—the origins. In 1934 the first model of Chair A appeared and was very successful in factories, hospitals, public parks, and restaurant terraces, as it was a cheap, resistant, and easy to clean product. Initially, they were designed for outdoor use, so the seat contains holes designed to evacuate water. In 1937 Tolix filled the aisles of the 1937 Paris Universal Exposition, and by the end of the 1950s, around 60,000 units were being manufactured annually. The popularity of this piece of furniture was such that the big breweries used it as a gift to close supply agreements with their customers; this contributed decisively to its success. The redesign. However, it was not until 1956 that the version we know today was put on the market. This redesign responded to a demand from cafe and restaurant owners who needed the chair to be stackable. The company launched a product on the market with a thinner and lighter structure that allows stacking up to 25 units with a height of 2.3 meters, satisfying this demand. Undoubtedly an example of accessible design. In the words of the English designer Sir Terence Conran: "over the years, this chair has become a symbol of democratic excellence, meaning that it is mass-produced but with a universally accepted design."
The second golden age. The company was in the hands of the Pauchard family until its bankruptcy in 2004. Tolix was then acquired by Chantal Androit, the company's former CFO, and a group of employees. Androit is responsible for this second youth of the chair. Her strategy was to introduce new variations (high stools, low stools, chairs with armrests, tables). But the most innovative thing was the latest range of colors: more than 50 different shades. "It was very unexpected, and it caught people's attention," says Chantal. In this new phase, Chantal had the help of Normal Studio, composed of designers Jean-François Dingjian and Eloi Chafaï. They took over the Tolix art direction tents, accompanying the company on its new journey. They also created some new pieces that today make up the company's catalog, such as the Y Benches.
A stool at different heights. Initially, this stool was designed to provide a dignified seat for factory workers. That is why there are different heights so that they could be adapted to the other workstations and the needs of each company, for living rooms and gardens. Chair A is ideal for home interiors: living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and exteriors such as terraces and gardens. However, it must be taken into account that the chair's finish is different indoors and outdoors, where it needs more resistance to inclement weather and for all audiences. In 1935 Pauchard founded the brand La Mouette under which the children's version of the chair was marketed and tables and stools. In 2010 the version with armrests was reissued to coincide with the launch of a product range for children also designed by Normal Studio and the tandem Sébastien Cordoléani and Franck Fontana.
Produit en France seal. The company has been faithful to its roots, and production is carried out entirely in France so that they can ensure the quality of the entire manufacturing process. In 2006 it received the label Entreprise du Patrimoine vivant awarded by the French government to celebrate the heritage work carried out by different companies in the country. Today, the Tolix chair does 10 million in sales primarily to the United States.