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The Restaurant Chair That Seems to Be Everywhere

The Bend wire chair is in high demand across the country

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Wonho Frank Lee

Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood have slunk off to the suburbs, leaving in their place floral wallpaper, saturated color palettes, and a jungle’s worth of houseplants as restaurant designers’ go-to moves. Amid that aesthetic shift, one impressively versatile chair has emerged as the seating choice du jour in quite a few trendy bars and dining rooms, especially on the West Coast. (No, it’s not that one.)

Designer Gaurav Nanda launched Bend, his collection of geometric chairs and stools inspired by Harry Bertoia’s iconic mid-century wire furniture, in 2010. Since then, Bend’s Lucy chair and stool, along with cousins Ethel and Betty, have popped up at restaurants and bars from Los Angeles to Austin to Australia. Nanda attributes Lucy’s popularity in dining spaces to its durability and versatility: It works indoors or outdoors, can withstand high-traffic areas, and comes in a handful of different colors and finishes, from matte peacock blue to gleaming copper.

My Kingdom for a Horse

At Bavel in Los Angeles, copper Lucy barstools are juxtaposed with a stark white bar and tendrils of greenery hanging from the ceiling. At Launderette in Austin, white Lucy stools pop atop lacquered blue flooring. Toronto’s Figo deploys the chair in white amid its airy all-white interior. And over in Adelaide, Australia, the stools add a tangerine pop to the vibrant cafe interior of My Kingdom for a Horse. From minimalist salad bars to modern taquerias and laid-back beachside cantinas, the Lucy style is making cameos in a wildly diverse range of interiors. (And once you notice it, you won’t stop seeing it.)

Robert J. Lerma
Sergey Kolivayko
Jakob Layman

In designing Bavel’s interior, Studio UNLTD founder Greg Bleier chose the Lucy stools in a copper finish to help evoke a light, modern feel that bucked the dark, heavy design clichés often used in Middle Eastern restaurants. He says that the Lucy and its kin seem to capture an of-the-moment aesthetic zeitgeist in the same way Gerrit Rietveld’s “Red Blue Chair” embodied the ideals of the de Stijl movement. “I don’t know what to call this current style, but the very geometric design resonates with a lot of what we had been seeing in graphics and design over the last five years,” Bleier says. “I don’t think that I am being disingenuous when I say that the Bend style of design is the physical embodiment of the style of the day.”

The chairs “add a level of design and a nice pop of color and fun,” adds Barbara Rourke, cofounder and creative director of design firm Bells + Whistles. For Carlsbad restaurant Campfire, her firm selected Bend’s Betty Stacking Chair in copper on the patio to add a touch of modernity to its otherwise rustic exterior space, where a fire pit accents the corrugated metal of the building. O’Rourke attributes the chair’s popularity to its sleekly minimal yet statement-making design: “It packs a big punch.”

The popularity of the design inspired a slew of riffs and imitators, too, trickling all the way down to the consumer level. Below are just a few of the ways everyday shoppers can mimic the effect in their own homes:

Then, of course, there are the many styles of Lucy to consider:

And, if you’re truly committed to the midcentury style from whence the Lucy came, Knoll still stocks the original Bertoia design, in chair and stool forms — and even recently trotted out a new, oh so millennial rose gold plating on the otherwise timeless style. For $4,126, it can be yours.

Correction: February 19, 2019, 11:29 a.m. This article previously misstated Barbara Rourke’s last name as O’Rourke.