NeoCon 2019 Preview: Okamura’s New Conference Seating Gets Back to Basics

05/21/2019 By Sarah Kloepple

In Japanese, shibusa refers to the aesthetic of subtle, simple and understated beauty. It’s the word from which Okamura derives its new line of conference seating, Shibusa.

“I was inspired by the amazing history of Japanese design, art and philosophy,” says American product designer Richard Holbrook, who collaborated with Okamura on the collection. “Especially for this application, the simplicity and understated refinement that is evident in Japanese architecture, art, calligraphy and design seemed perfectly suited as a springboard for creation of a new type of work chair.”

In the team’s research of the activities that typically take place in a conference room and other collaborative settings, they observed that these kinds of chairs are designed for individual seated work. Therefore, they need to accommodate a different range of seated postures.

“It seemed clear that a new type of chair could add value by encouraging a more upright position and by eliminating extraneous and unnecessary adjustments,” Holbrook explains.

He experimented with different motion ranges and articulations, and in the end found a seat cushion that had slightly more pitch than typical. Shibusa chairs also include only one adjustment for seat height. And they offer a recline, up to 15 degrees, dictated by the weight of the user. The idea is to keep everyone upright and engaged with others in the room – contributing to a better quality of information exchange and discussion.

“The point of this chair is, ‘Less, but better’ to quote Dieter Rams. We wanted to eliminate all unnecessary elements and functions to make the user’s experience intuitive and effortlessly comfortable,” Holbrook says, adding: “Compared to most chairs, the Shibusa uses very little material.  It’s lightweight and pretty lean, economical in substance and in appearance.”

Shibusa chairs are available in two backrest height options (mid or high), as well as with a wood veneered backrest panel. The frame/base is available in three colors or polished aluminum. Five different fabrics (totaling 52 colors) and four leather colors are available for the upholstery.


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