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Until recently, I was mostly indifferent to computer chairs. I stopped using a computer stool over a decade ago because kneeling all day put too much pressure on my cartilage-deprived knees, but otherwise, my main concern was to have fabric rather than a leather or imitation-leather cushions because they are easier to clean. I was skeptical about the advantages of ergonomic chairs, but in the past month or so, I’ve changed my mind.

Two things happened to change my mind. First, I recently replaced two aging futons, and found the new futons vastly more comfortable to lie upon. Second, a colleague recently bought a Herman Miller Mirra 2, and I started wondering if I could improve upon my computer chair in the same way I had improved on the futons.

Having done graphical design, I was intrigued by pictures of my colleague’s new chair. Although Herman Miller products have been popular in the tech world for a couple of decades, they had never registered on mind, even though Herman Miller chairs were a common perq in startups. However, I soon found out that the company had over eighty years of experience in modernist design, and was widely considered an expert in ergonomics and in the reduction of the material needed to build a chair.

Hard facts about the ergonomics simply don’t exist, so, in the end, I had to see for myself. I spent an afternoon playing Goldilocks, sitting on a couple of dozen chairs, both from Herman Miller and rival companies like Steelcase. I quickly found that, although the rival products had the same price, and some of the same features, none were as comfortable as the Herman Miller chairs.

Herman Miller established itself as a manufacturer of ergonomic chairs with the Aeron model. However, neither the original Aeron nor the retooled version seemed especially comfortable to me (other people might find differently). Neither did the top of the line Embody chairs, possibly because its back cushions muffled the effect of the spine-like mesh on the back – which, considering my budget, is just as well.

I finally settled on two models, the Mirra 2 and the Sayl, which were more or less equally comfortable for me. However, I then had to make decisions about a half dozen various options – something that I had never really considered. Some of the changes were cosmetic, such as the color of the frame or the seat, but others were more practical, such as whether the arms were fixed or were adjustable, or whether lumbar support was added to the back. Patiently, the store clerk made up quotes for both, listing the cost of the options I was most interested in, and I took them home to ponder.

The Mira 2, I decided, had a better mechanism for adjusting the arms, but offered a limited selection of colors. The ergonomics being approximately equal, I settled on the Sayl chair, whose cosmetic options would allow me my preferences. For a day or so, I debated adding an upholstered back, but, remembering my reaction to the Embody chair, I thought the upholstered back would reduce the ergonomics. That would be especially true if I added lumbar support, which would be difficult – if not impossible – to adjust when covered by upholstery.

Besides, why buy a modernist chair then cover it up? The mesh on the back of the Sayl chair gives it a bold, clean look of which I am unlikely to tire.

Unfortunately, my purchase has to wait upon some unexpected expenses, but, as soon as I can afford it, I am going to indulge myself. A Herman Miller chair is not cheap – although the Sayl is the least expensive — but with a twelve year warranty, I am satisfied that I will not simply be paying for the name. My back, I suspect, will be glad of the purchase in the coming years.

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