What is a Revolving Chair?

Jessica Ellis

A revolving chair is a highly functional piece of furniture with a long history. Although the beginnings of this useful chair are lost to antiquity, it has served as a workhorse for busy multitaskers for several centuries. Modern forms of the revolving chair can be found scooting around offices throughout the world, preventing their users from needing to stand as they move from one place to another.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The revolving chair, also known as a swivel chair, turns on a single vertical axis to allow the seating portion to spin. This unique feature not only allows the sitter to face any direction, but can sometimes allow for height changes as well. For this reason, many early revolving chairs were built as stools or seats for musical instruments such as organs or pianos that might have users of varying height. Although some models will collapse into two pieces if spun too far in one direction, many modern versions have safeguards that prevent the chair from spinning too far.

To make the revolving chair even more functional, many varieties are also placed on wheels or casters that allow the chair to roll from place to place. The modern office chair typically can both revolve and wheel easily, to allow workers easy transportation between desks or workstations. Additional features such as adjustable backs and arms can greatly increase comfort and improve posture for workers who spend long hours in one of these chairs.

The revolving chair has an interesting history with United States Presidents. Thomas Jefferson, a restless inventor, is believed to have improved on early revolving chair designs by adding a small writing panel to one of the arms and a footrest to the bottom of the chair. A century later, Governor Rutherford B. Hayes famously used a revolving chair carved from steer horns before becoming President.

The modern revolving chair is available in endless variations to meet many needs. Made of wood, leather, or polyvinyl, this multitasking giant of the furnishing world is found in home offices and workplaces the world around. For those with multiple workstations, such as film and music editors or computer operators, revolving chairs can simplify the workplace and prevent cluttering a small space with extra seating, all while allowing a smooth and fast transition from one area to the next. Prices for revolving chairs vary depending on origin, material, and design.

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