- The Elysium Chair is a £25,000 luxury chair designed to simulate the feeling of weightlessness.
- Business Insider recently gave it a spin to see if it lives up to the hype.
- It’s exceedingly comfortable — but has an unfortunate resemblance to a dentist’s chair.
If you’ve got a spare £25,000 floating around, you could put down a 20% deposit on a one-bed flat in central Manchester. You could pick up a second-hand Porsche 911. You could pay a British nurse’s annual salary.
Or you could buy a chair.
Yup, a chair.
The Elysium Chair.
But as its creator David Wickett takes pains to emphasise, the Elysium Chair is no ordinary chair. It justifies its eye-watering pricetag with a heady claim: It can allegedly make you feel like you’re in zero-gravity.
As a big fan of sitting down, I decided to give it a go. (Read on to see how I found it, or scroll down for the video.)
It’s a chair, but not as you know it
Wickett is a British bioengineering doctor-turned-furniture designer with a passing resemblance to Apple design head honcho Jony Ive. He’s got a similar stubble-and-shaved-head-look on lock, and speaks in the same soothing British tones. Promising signs.
He frames his five-figure throne as the culmination of a decade of work. So what’s the big deal? Well, it’s a chair. But it’s carefully balanced so that the slightest movement adjusts the balance and position, supposedly placing you in a state of equilibrium that feels like weightlessness. Also, it’s super-comfy.
I recently tried it out in the basement of a PR agency in Soho, London. First impressions: It’s got a slightly clinical vibe to it. The Elysium chair isn’t maximalist and ostentatious; its ergonomic curves and exposed metal mechanism avoid immediate connotations of luxury.
Then I sat in it — and I went all over the place. Lean back, and suddenly you’re shooting backwards, legs above your head. Move forward, and the chair rejects you, spitting you back out into a rigid sitting position.
The weighting wasn’t quite like anything I’ve sat in before, and meant there was a steep learning curve.
In other words: At the age of 25, I was having to re-learn how to use a chair.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s great…
If this is making the Elysium Chair sound a little undesirable, let me be clear: It is extremely comfortable. It conforms to your shape, and as you relax into it, it envelops you. The bizarre culture shock also soon starts to dissipate, and after a few minutes of practice you can easily control it.
This is a genuinely new experience,” Wickett told me. “You do have to learn the subtle movements to control position. It would be exactly the same if you were in a real zero-gravity environment; you’d overcompensate, under compensate, and then you’d nail it.”
By shimmying your buttocks, you can tweak its positioning to your liking, finding a sweet spot of relaxation. Or you can simply perform a lazily decadent hand wave, the shifting positioning of your arm’s weight adjusting the chair in real time.
While reclining, it slowly dawned on me what it reminded me of: A dentist’s chair. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, per se. As I said, it sure is comfy. But the sweeping, yellow leather, the explicitly ergonomic design language, the gleaming mechanisms … it feels a little bit institutional.
…But it’s not really weightlessness
So, the chair’s comfy. Great. Big tick right there. But how about the whole weightlessness thing? That’s trickier.
There’s only a select group of people who are qualified to say whether it really feels like zero-gravity: The 500 odd-astronauts who have actually been to space. I don’t fall into that category, and I’m pretty sure Wickett doesn’t either.
He draws parallels, however, with an earthly experience: Floatation tanks. In a tank, you lie suspended in salty water in silence and inky blackness, floating and adrift from the world. I’ve tried it before, and it’s an unreal experience.
The Elysium Chair’s weighting does mean that it evenly distributes your weight, leaving you relaxed and unstrained — but it’s just not really the same. In a floatation tank, your body melts away, but in the Elysium Chair you are still, undeniably, in a chair. (Did I mention it’s a chair?)
It’s not a chair for the average Joe
“Any experience that people have can be elevated by having that experience in the chair,” Wickett told me. “For the investment of £25,000, they can access a level of comfort unlike anything else for the rest of their life. And when you consider that, the price starts to make some sense.”
It’s a heady claim. Is it worth it? To be honest, if you’ve got the kind of capital at your disposal that means you’re actually considering sinking £25,000 on a seat, then you’re not going to take my word for it. So yes, if you’re got more money than God and want a recliner to match, then by all means — go hog wild. Buy the chair.
Fundamentally, I realised as I swayed back and forth soothingly with a wave of my hand: It’s a space-age rocking chair.
It’s a ultra-high-end, chair, bedecked in scientific jargon and fancy leather, and retailing for £25,000 — but it’s still a rocking chair.