Because of our continuing curiosity about what it’s like to use the great chairs we sell, we here at Smart Furniture have prevailed upon two of our fine employees to test the Steelcase Think Chair. Mark Rico (our resident rendering specialist) and Cyndi Brackett (our accountant extraordinaire), have graciously accepted the opportunity to share the Think for one week and write about their experience.

Mark, in addition to his superb SketchUp and facial-hair-growing skills, is glad to spend life with his wife and four children. He hopes to one day hike the Appalachian Trail with his family and is currently reading about insects and spiders because they’re amazing.

Cyndi works out of our office three days a week and is at home the remaining four. She is very blessed to have a wonderful husband and two amazing kids. Her son is entering middle school next year and her daughter will be entering Kindergarten next year. Yes, she drives a minivan and hauls kids around all day but loves every minute of it. She hopes to go to Europe on vacation at some point in the future. On those days when she doesn’t have a minute to herself she looks forward to being an empty nester!

Day One with Mark

Today I started a week-long test of the Steelcase Think chair. Steelcase isn’t really the first brand many people think of when they’re considering modern furniture, or even seating for their home offices. However, the Think pretty well demonstrates that Steelcase doesn’t just make conventional office furniture; it’s beautiful to look at (especially the one I’m sitting in) – white seat, white mesh back (stunning) and super comfortable. The real question at this point is how it performs every day.

The first thing I did was read the little how-to-adjust-the-chair tag that came with the Think. It’s only a one-page diagram that tells you what the knobs do, and it’s really all that’s necessary. Think is a very intuitive chair to adjust. The lever thing (there’s only one – simple) is for adjusting the height. The knob thing (there’s only one – again, very simple) is for setting the tilt limit, and there are 4 settings. Under the front of the seat, there’s a bar very similar to the bar you’d find under the front seat of your car, and you lift it and scoot the seat forwards or backwards to increase or decrease the seat depth. There are about 2 inches of adjustability for the depth which turns out to be enough for me, and I’m 6’1″.

The armrests are by far the most fun function. They move in/out in front and back, independently, so that you can find the best position without pressing buttons or being confined to a preset location. Throughout the day, as I’ve gotten used to sitting here, I’ve gotten comfortable enough to just move the armrests with my elbows as I change position.

More tomorrow, but my first impression is that I like the way it feels almost as much as I like the way it looks, and it looks incredible. This is the kind of chair that I want to have in my home office and just “happen” to leave the door open, hoping my guests will see it as I purposefully lead them past the doorway…

Day Two with Cyndi

I was very excited when I was asked to “test drive” the Think Chair by Steelcase. I am not a woman of many words so I was concerned that maybe I was not the best choice for this “test drive” and analysis, but nonetheless I agreed.

When I first sat down in the Think Chair I immediately noticed the very cushioned and comfortable seat. I also noticed how comfortable it was when I leaned back. You see, I ruptured a disk in my back a few years ago so there aren’t too many chairs that are truly comfortable. So I need a chair that has great lumbar support and helps my back relax while sitting. The Think chair does have a great lumbar support which really helps my posture while sitting, not one of my strong points. I also noticed the dial on the right side that allows the chair to recline more or less, depending on my preference. The chair I normally sit in has a lever to allow the chair to recline slightly or not recline at all. So the dial on the Think Chair gives me more options depending on the way I feel for the day. I am a woman and yes, I change my mind often. I am looking forward to my second day in the Think….

Day Three with Mark

The back of the chair’s got this system of independent cables that Steelcase calls the “Liveback” system. What that means to me is that while I’ve been sitting here, sort of rocking in the chair, the back has been moving to accommodate me as I move. It’s not a padded back, except for the cloth covering the cables, but it somehow gives the impression that it’s solidly cushioned. That, combined with the cushy seat, makes the overall sitting experience a pretty luxurious one. I spent a lot of time at my desk today, and at no point did I get uncomfortable. I just had an urge to get up and move around every so often, as is normal for me.

The thing that sets this chair apart is its slim, modern profile.Yes, it’s cushy. Yes, it’s modern. No, it’s not clumsy and overstuffed. No, it’s not overbearing. It’s more like my favorite thing about my office, rather than just office furniture. The one I’m using is white back/white seat and it’s super crisp and attractive.

Day Four with Cyndi

I work part time (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to be exact), as well as some hours from home. So I was really glad when it was Wednesday and I could sit in the Think Chair again. However, I was disappointed when I arrived at my office and Mark Rico had “borrowed” the chair on Tuesday. He brought it back right away though. The Think Chair was just as comfortable the second day as it was the first. I really enjoy the adjustable recline and arm rests. The arm rests adjust closer to your body or farther away as well as angling from left to right. This makes the Think Chair very conforming to your preferences. As I was sitting in the chair I was really wishing I had a comfortable chair at home to sit in while I work. The chair and desk I have at home are very uncomfortable and as a result I sit on my bed and work on my laptop when I work at home. When I work for an hour or two at a time sitting on my bed, it becomes very uncomfortable too. I seriously need a new desk and chair at home.

Day Five with Mark

Today I pretty well settled into the chair and found that I like the 3rd setting on the tilt limiter – not quite all the way laid back, but supportive – and it allows me to push back slightly against it and rock a little bit. My grandfather would say that I’m keeping my joints lubricated. He’d also say that I need to shave, and that if I’m not careful, my face will stick like this. Well, at least he’s right about moving while I work; I’ve found that it helps me at the end of the day to have spent it in movement, no matter how slight.

When I lean back, the seat stays level, so there’s no edge cutting into the backs of my knees (in fact, there’s no edge at all, as much as that sounds contrary to physics). My circulation has not been cut off at any part of any of the days I’ve tried Think. At the same time, the arms – wonder of wonders – stay in place. They don’t tilt back with the chair, like every other chair out there, or at least most of them. The effect is that my hands don’t feel like they’re being pulled away from the keyboard as I rock,and I can actually place the armrests at a usable height without fear that they’ll scrape the bottom edge of my desk if I lean back. Ergonomics nerds like me will love this chair.

Day Six with Cyndi

I really look forward to sitting in the Think Chair again today. It makes me sad to realize that today is my last day to “test drive” the Think Chair. After today I must go back to sitting in my very un-cushioned, uncomfortable chair, the one at home and the one at work. You know, I think I need to convince my husband that we need a new desk and chair at home because I do work several hours from home each week. 😉 I have really enjoyed the “test drive”. I highly recommend the Think Chair by Steelcase.

Day Seven with Mark

When I look at the Think, what I see is a minimalist, inside-outside design that I appreciate aesthetically. The LiveBack system is visible but doesn’t look like it’s functional as much as it looks like a design element, and the two frame bars that hold up the back look unyielding in their curve.

What I’ve found after sitting in the chair for a week (yes, it’s been a week – I only wrote on 4 days, but have been in the chair that long) is that the frame bars, since they’re independent and not connected at the top, flex quite a bit. The result is that when I turn in the chair and move around, the back is not stiff from side to side, but twists with me quite comfortably.

I’ve also found that the LiveBack isn’t just pretty trappings for a modern chair. The metal cords have a huge degree of give and have worked together to shape the back far beyond what I would have expected. I tend to sit sort of angled, which I know is not the most healthy or ergonomically correct position, but that’s just how it works best with the desk I’ve got. What the LiveBack has done – along with the frame’s give at the top – is it has helped the chair support me where I am, rather than try to conform my posture to its shape by putting undue stress on one part of my back.

The seat is comfortably soft, but not soft enough to let me slump down into it; it is not comfort on the level of an Eames Softpad Lounge Chair, but it beats most every other office chair I’ve sat on. Part of the reason I like the design so much is that it allows for a pad in the seat, rather than ruling it out by having such a slim profile my Grandma wouldn’t be able to see it.

Finally, the armrests: after a week of use, I’ve come up with a few preferred configurations. Right now I’m in the typing configuration (remember, I sit crooked). The left armrest is front-in, back-out. The right armrest is front-out, back-in. The SketchUp (3D software program) configuration calls for both armrests to have the front in and the back out because I put my right arm wider to use the mouse for that program.

Now that you know more than you need to about my sitting habits, the simplest thing is to understand that these armrests offer great flexibility with ease. To move them from one configuration to the next, all I do is drag them with my elbow (!!!). They are my favorite feature on the Think because of the ease and flexibility. At Smart Furniture, none of us is a single-function employee, so it’s super useful to have equipment that assists us with whatever it is we’re doing. I’m sure you can relate.

We really need a grading system for these chairs we’re reviewing, but maybe we’ll do that when we’re done with all the reviews. In any case, I’m comfortable in the Think and that sounds like a pretty good grade to me.

Smart Furniture

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