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In the first 2000s, my senior high school friends and I’d routinely crash at one pal’s house on the weekends. Her apartment was roomy enough to support an extraordinary number of obnoxious, post-party teenagers, but there is only so much mattress space and couch property to bypass. Inevitably, among us would need to sleep in the papasan.
Unless you know the papasan by name, you know it on sight. It’s that bowl-shaped, cushioned chair which has a definite 1970s feel to it. It appeared to like a renaissance in the late mid to late ’90s (I cannot find proof one existing in the “Friends” apartment, nonetheless it definitely might have been something Monica had rather than allowed one to sit in).
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In reporting this story, I learned that most of us have a papasan story. I heard a whole lot of “oh I really like those!” and “ugh I had to settle among those after a frat party once.” My completely informal and unscientific poll on the problem indicates that lots of admire the quirky aesthetic of the papasan, plenty are placed off by its precarious-seeming nature, and lots of have woken up stiff and contorted from assuming the fetal position in it for eight hours. Irrespective of your relationship to the furniture staple, it’s worth knowing a bit relating to this curious circular seating option and where it originated from.
Where Did the Papasan RESULT FROM?
The papasan goes on many names – bucket chair, saucer chair, bowl chair, moon chair and others. It might seem its most common moniker would offer some insight in to the product’s origin, but, well, things should never be that simple, right? A number of the earliest references to the word “papasan” date back again to the 1970s and a 1974 advertisement from the Philippines used the term to market the now-internationally recognized chair. However the word itself definitely didn’t originate in the Philippines. According to John Kelly’s super comprehensive article on this issue,”papasan” combines the English word for father (“papa”) with japan honorific suffix (“-san”) to mean male elder or father.
“Legend has it that U.S. military men first brought the papasan chair to the states as a surprise because of their wives,” says interior designer Sarah Barnard. “Paired with other treasures from their travels, the moon-shaped chair became portion of the international and eclectic aesthetic ‘contemporary military’ or ‘military chic’ style.”
It’s still not totally clear why the soldiers thought we would bestow such a name on a circular chair, but it’s worth noting that Kelly says the word “papasan” was also used interchangeably with “pimp” throughout that era, and professionals speculate soldiers may have first spotted the chair in red-light venues through the Vietnam War and associated it with sex culture. A stretch? Maybe. But there’s very little information out there to otherwise make clear the name.
Whatever you call it, the circular chair’s history predates its many names, though it isn’t totally clear by just how much time. According to Kelly’s research, the chair is something of Asian-Pacific culture that potentially popped up time in the 20th century, albeit in an easier form – smaller, uncushioned and propped through to legs.
Enter Pier 1 Imports
As for how and just why the papasan became such a ubiquitous ’70s staple in the us beyond military circles, you can presumably thank Pier 1. In line with the company website, it first started selling the chair, along with “beanbag chairs, love beads and incense” in the first 1960s, but Kelly believes the papasan’s popularity really became popular in the 1970s, and in the event that you type “papasan.com” into your browser, you will be redirected to Pier 1’s papasan page (weird but cool?).
So may be the papasan still cool today? “I’ve noticed the initial papasan form transform right into a smaller form, often just in the sort of rattan with out a tufted cushion,” says Lindsey Shook, editorial and brand director of “California Home + Design Magazine.” “The cushion itself is why is the piece feel more dated. Now brands like Bend Goods and Baxter, are playing more with metal finishes, cords, installing smaller pillows and changing the form.”
“The rattan material and womb-like condition of papasan chairs invites daydreams of an island vacation and will inspire impromptu naps,” Barnard says. “They are lightweight and simple to move about, with endless re-styling opportunities. Cushions could be replaced on a whim, and a colorful toss blanket can provide an instantaneous fresh face to an antique chair. Recently, saucer-shaped chairs have regained popularity, especially among boho-chic aficionados. Today’s reinvented papasan is modern and earthy with a call to comfort and an informal, youthful spirit.”