Close your eyes. What is the first thing that pops into your head when someone says “Paris park?” Is it “those green Parisian chairs?” Or, “Luxembourg chairs?” Yes! Me too! If you visit any of the major parks in Paris you will indeed find those iconic green chairs somewhere near a fountain or grouped together under trees (or in the case of Palais Royale, with beautiful quotes carved into them). Whatever you answered (“Luxembourg” or “green chairs”) it probably wasn’t “Senat chairs” or something with the company name “Fermob” unless you have read up on your history, but that’s okay because that’s what I am here for!
The History Behind Paris’s Green Park Chairs
Even though it’s such an integral part of Parisian culture and park aesthetic and symbolizes the whole of French design, many people aren’t aware of the rich history surrounding these Paris park chairs. Before the beginning of the 18th century, Paris parks had benches. Parisians of a certain class used the parks for social gatherings to see and be seen, governesses and nannies took children to parks, and betrothed couples could go on a “date” in public. The benches weren’t very comfortable and individual chairs started to appear.
Some enterprising Senators decided the park needed folding chairs for the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Jardin du Luxembourg and the Palais de Luxembourg are where the French Senate works are managed directly by the French Senate and have been since 1853. They hired a company to rent out the chairs for the park and the cafes surrounding the park where demand was high due to an ever-expanding café culture. Of course, Parisians balked at paying the high rates to sit on a chair, and in 1843, the Senate ordered 1,500 chairs to rent at the set price of ten centimes. (People still had to pay to rent chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg as late as 1974!
The chairs that we recognize today as SENAT chairs came into existence in 1923 and first showed up in the Jardin du Luxembourg (also why the chairs are often referred to as Luxembourg chairs, even though it isn’t quite the same, more on that, keep reading!) and then started popping up in all the major parks throughout Paris.
Almost silently, they spread across the paths and near the ponds in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Whether the area was covered by beautiful trees or out in the glorious Parisian sun, the SENAT chairs were there, waiting to be lovingly used.
What is so interesting about these chairs is that their origin, who originally came up with the design and who manufactured them, is a mystery! I find that fascinating!
What we do know is that the original style was crafted in the Paris parks department, in the garden’s ironworks shop, and was made of steel, so heavy, maybe making them less likely to disappear from parks… They also required regular maintenance and painting.
As you can imagine, these chairs got quite a bit of use, after all, Parisians love their park time. Then add in tourists, etc and by 1990, the chairs were looking a little worse for wear! The French Senate opened up an RFP for submissions for new designs to replace the original chairs. Ultimately, Fermob was selected and produced 2,000 chairs for the 3 main gardens: Luxembourg, Tuileries, and Palais Royal. Fermob was already well known as they had created the bistro chair in 1814 that was used in Paris bistros.
Again in 2000, the chair went through an update. Fermob hired Frederic Sofia to do the redesign. He took a year to study the chairs at every angle and in every park. His main focus was comfort. Sofia added armrests and updated the back with a slope and slats that didn’t cut into the leg (having sat on an “old” one pre-2000, I can tell you that was a very nice change!
He turned the rustic-looking chair meant for all parks and gardens across Paris, into a sleek, up-market, designer furniture piece. And with that, the Luxembourg range was created.
Senat versus Luxembourg – what’s the difference?
So here is where it gets a little confusing. Fermob does manufacture furniture that the public can buy (see more on that below). And they do have a Luxembourg chair (and more) that they sell, but the Senat chairs are exclusively for the Parisian parks, including the specific green used. The chair that is available for purchase is a light aluminum and comes in many colors (including green, but that green!) which are stackable. Fifty percent of Fermob’s orders are shipped outside of France, everyone wants a piece of Paris in their garden!
The Luxembourg Collection
This line of furniture from Fermob was (and still is) characterized by its form and lines. Its light and resilient material combined with the curved back support and stackable frame continues to be the perfect combination of form and function. Practicality and aesthetically pleasing designs were the goals that Fermob and Frédéric Sofia had in mind for this collection. As you can tell, it’s paid off.
Currently, the Luxembourg furniture line has a whopping 25 pieces in 24 colors. Each item is made from the light aluminum that Frédéric Sofia included in his original design. From today’s collection, you can clearly see the original SENAT chair influence which is comforting for those who loved the initial creation.
The only thing to do now is to find your favorite in the Luxembourg collection and save up your money! You can deck your own home out with the emblem of French design and bring the spirit of the Jardin du Luxembourg to you.
So there you have it. The history of Paris’s green park chairs throughout the years. Where you can find them in Paris and how to buy a Paris park chair for your own home. Even if you don’t want one chez vous, make sure to have a seat on one at least once on your next visit to Paris and just enjoy!
How about you? Have you seen the green park chairs in Paris? Have you ever wondered about their history? Have you ever wanted to take one home? Do tell!
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