Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The New Navy

In 1944, the Electric Machinery and Equipment Company (Emeco) and the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) collaborated with US Navy engineers to design a seaworthy chair for military use.
The resulting 1006 chair—pronounced "ten oh six"— became a staple on Navy destroyers and submarines. Its seamless construction of corrosion-resistant, lightweight aluminum made it uniquely durable, easily portable and virtually maintenance-free.
The originals were produced in Emeco’s Hanover, PA workshops and they are still made there today—offspring of the perfect marriage between American ingenuity and craftsmanship.
The sturdy little chairs soon found themselves on land as well as at sea. First, they moved onto military bases and then into civilian offices.Over the years, as Navy chairs were retired from military use, they began to appear in surplus and resale stores and flea markets across the country.
Perhaps they were, at first, an inexpensive alternative to chairs found in traditional furniture stores, or a way to get a deliberately funky look, but their timeless charm won out. 1006 and similar Navy-inspired chairs can now be seen in even the most stylish, upscale homes.
Their clean lines and casual style allow them to fit into country, modern, eclectic and contemporary spaces. They are most often seen in kitchens and dining areas where their durability and ease of maintenance make them an excellent choice for busy families.
Occasionally, you will spot a 1006—or a few dozen—out in public. The chairs above were photographed in Louisville, KY at a fancy flagship KFC. Below, you see a testament to their ability to span styles and cultures: American-designed and manufactured Navy chairs in a Vietnamese restaurant in London.
If you can't find the real thing, like this vintage 1006 I found on The City Sage blog,
affordable alternatives are out there. Target sells their Cafe Aluminum Side Chairs in pairs for $246.99.
At Stack Chair Depot, the Oceanic Side Chair is only $95.00. Counter- and bar-height stools are also available at $115 and $125 respectively. While the styling of these two versions are similar to the original, I wouldn't expect their construction to be of the same quality. Proceed with "buyer beware" caution.
A faithful reproduction of the original, the Emeco Navy Chair with wood seats in two finishes can be found at
For hard-core design aficionados who want only the best and most authentic, Design Within Reach offers the Emeco Classic reinvented by Phillipe Starck (top of this post). The 1006 Navy Side Chair is the real deal, made to the same exacting standards as the originals.

Featured in the current DWR catalog is the newest member of the Navy Chair family which made its debut only a few weeks ago.
The 111 Navy Chair is made from recycled plastic coke bottles—111 of them—and is available in six fun colors. A collaboration between Emeco and Coca-Cola, this little chair, if sales progress as DWR believes they will, is expected to keep three million plastic Coke bottles out of landfills each year.
What brought on my sudden interest in Navy chairs? Well, I've always been aware of them, but when I received the new DWR catalog, I was really taken with what a great idea the 111 chair is. To the point that I walked around my house trying to picture one somewhere (the jury's still out on that decision). And then, on Saturday, I saw South Pacific on stage at The Ahmanson. Navy guys and gals dancing and singing up a tropical storm - if this current tour comes to a theater near you, go! - and whenever the set changed to The Island Commander's Office, there they were: aluminum Navy chairs at each desk. Ok, so I'm aware that this tiny detail may have totally escaped most people and really has nothing at all to do with the greatness that is this show, but it appears that I simply had Navy chairs on the brain. Or maybe it was one of those moments when, instead of watching the characters in a play or a movie, I'm busy studying the wallpaper behind them. Don't judge me, I can't help myself.

Click on the image above and you'll be treated to musical highlights, interesting commentary, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of a Navy chair on stage plus, for all you Gleeks out there, glimpses of a sometimes shirtless Matthew Morrison/Mr. Schuester who starred as Lieutenant Cable in the 2008 Lincoln Center production of the show. You're welcome!


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

A wonderful look.

the gardeners cottage said...

hi tracy,

fascinating as always. really love those dwr chairs and how great they are made from recycled bottles. love that.


ps ~ south pacific was my mother's favorite musical. i don't know how many times i had to watch that movie, but i have to say i never noticed the chairs!

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Tracy,
What a great post -the history you gave on the chairs was so interesting. The more I see industrial type chairs, the more I think I want them. I especially love these. We live close to an air force base, I wonder if I could find any around there?! It's interesting that something so simple and utilitarian has such a wonderful American history - I love them even more that you can get them from recycled bottles.
Thanks for the fun lesson today!

Love Where You LIve, a blog celebrating design, individual style & decorating. said...

Great post! I love these little guys. So, it proves sometimes the most basic is the most beautiful. cheers,-s

Struggler said...

Fun to learn their history - I had no idea and hadn't really noticed how popular they have become! I'll be on the lookout for more, now.

Kim@Chattafabulous said...

Well, I feel a little smarter now and I do adore the plastic version. Stylish and practical!

Averill said...

Really love the new Coke bottle versions -- and I think they'd be perfect outside! In fact I'm hoping to pick up a few for my outdoor dining once our patio goes in later this summer.

prashant said...

really love those dwr chairs and how great they are made from recycled bottles.
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