The Story Behind Paris’ Beloved Green Chairs

Paris green chair

Whether you call them Luxembourg chairs, SENAT chairs, or just Parisian green chairs, you know they’re a major part of Paris parks. They’re a constant no matter the season. Today they’re so plentiful that you can almost always find one available to sit down and take a break. These green chairs are a simple but integral part of Paris. And like most everything in Paris, there’s a history behind these green SENAT chairs.

Paris Park Chairs

Beginning in the 18th century individual chairs started to replace benches in Parisian parks because they were more comfortable. Private companies rented out chairs in the parks. As you can imagine, the Parisians weren’t exactly excited to have to pay to sit in a park. Eventually the French government intervened to lower the rental rates. In 1843 France decided to purchase 1,500 chairs to rent to the public.

The History of the SENAT Chairs

Senat chair history

The SENAT chairs and armchairs that we know today arrived in 1923. Commissioned by the Sénat, they originally appeared in the neighboring Jardin du Luxembourg. Soon after they quickly spread throughout parks and gardens all around Paris. For as iconic and emblematic as these chairs are, the original designers and manufacturers remain unknown.

In 1990 the chairs started to show their age. The Sénat issued a call to tender and picked Fermob to produce 2,000 new green chairs for the Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and Jardin du Palais-Royal.

As it turns out, the SENAT chairs and Luxembourg chairs aren’t the same thing. Fermob produces the SENAT chair exclusively for the Sénat, but the Luxembourg chair is available worldwide.

The Green Luxembourg Chair

Paris green chairs

In 2003, Fermob asked Frédéric Sofia to reinterpret the classic SENAT chairs. Sofia spent an entire year studying everything about the chairs. He ultimately came up with a new, more comfortable design. This design became the Luxembourg chair.

In 2001, when Bernard Reybier approached me to create a range of accessories inspired by the SENAT Chair, I went and covered the length and breadth of the Jardin du Luxembourg. I then photographed all the different models, took their measurements and sketched on paper all the seats in the garden: the chair, the bridge chair and the low armchair. It was a real pleasure. It was also an opportunity to discover their secrets of fabrication. Some chairs were very narrow, with strange steel ball feet, while others had large log-like armrests – some were higher, others wider, with slats of varying dimensions and placed at various heights. I saw design errors and an obvious lack of ergonomics. After a year of consideration, it became clear to me that, for a collection destined for private gardens, the chairs themselves needed to be redesigned and reconsidered.

Source: Frédéric Sofia
Paris Luxembourg chair
Paris SENAT chair

Sofia focused on creating new armrests and curved sections for the slats that don’t cut into your arms and legs. The aluminum is lightweight but still resistant and stackable. The difference is huge and a key factor in what makes the chairs so inviting to sit on.

The SENAT Chair Specifics

Paris green chair

The chairs are made in Thoissey, not far from Lyon, in an ironworks factory that was an original manufacturer of the chairs. Each steel chair is made from an exact mold and painted green: RAL 6013 to be exact. Some have wooden armrests and others don’t.

Like so many things in Paris, incredible attention and thought went into perfecting these chairs. I know I’ll have a new appreciation for them the next time I take a seat. If you’d like to have a piece of Paris at home, the Fermob Luxembourg chairs are available online, and in all different colors (but sadly not the exact Paris green).

To see more of the Parisian green chairs in action, take a spring or summer walk through the Tuileries, a walk through the Luxembourg Garden, or a walk through Jardin du Palais-Royal.

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