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July 31, 2022

The butterfly chair is a famous chair design that gained popularity during the 1950s. Today, they adorn the lobbies of five-star hotels, the pages of luxury design magazines, and the homes of celebrities.

But do you know the prestigious history of this comfortable seat? Read on as we divulge its secrets.

What is a Butterfly Chair?

The butterfly chair design features a sling of fabric attached over a minimal steel frame to form a suspended seat. The seat is both supportive and comfortable and warps fittingly to the human frame. It is also collapsible and stackable, making it a flexible and functional accessory.

When you search for Butterfly Chairs, you'll notice several other affiliated names. Some of these monikers include Argentina, BFK, and the Hardoy Chair. They point to the butterfly chairs' storied past.

The Butterfly Chair's steel frame and sack seat marked a departure from the hard-edged furniture design of the 1930s. It also freed its users from the social pressure of formal clothing and good posture that characterized the era.

Back then, women had to put on pants to sit on the sling chair. The seat was popular among teenagers and young families. Moving forward, it would form the benchmark for the contemporary furniture design created in the 1950s.

When and Where Was the Butterfly Chair Invented?

Butterfly Chair was invented in December 1938 in a Buenos Aires studio in Argentina.

Who Designed the Butterfly Chair?

Some furniture designs become ubiquitous to the extent that you hardly know the architects behind them. Such is the case with BKF or Butterfly Chair. The now classic design was the work of a trio of young architects-Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan, and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy (BKF).

The three architects had met in Paris while working under the tutelage of the famous modernist architect Le Corbusier. They absorbed the best design ideas of his work and returned to Buenos Aires in Argentina to continue with what they had learned from the Master. They created a new design group called Grupo Austral to introduce Le Corbusier's modernist concepts to Argentina.

While working in their Buenos Aires studio, the trio sought to create a chair for the interiors. They drew inspiration from the classic folding style military chair, the Tripolina, patented by Joseph Beverly Fenby in 1877. They redesigned the Tripolina with contemporary materials, and the outcome marked the invention of the Butterfly Chair.

The three architects created only three original Butterfly Chairs. One piece is in the Museum of Modern Art based in New York. Another one is at the Frank Lloyd Wright House FallingWater. No one knows the whereabouts of the third piece.

Is the Butterfly Chair Comfortable?

This is a typical question among first-time buyers. Despite its simple construction, the Butterfly chair is one of the most comfortable seats you'll come across. It's just as comfy as a robust armchair, if not more. The flawless stitching and leather fabric used are resilient and will comfortably carry your entire weight.

The chair is comfortable enough for you to be able to lounge in it for several hours. That explains why the Butterfly seats are commonly found in the lounge spaces of five-star hotels.

What Style is the Butterfly Chair?

The Butterfly Chair is a mid-century modern design. It owes a lot of its reputation as a mid-century modernist icon to the sharp eye of Edgar Kaufmann Jr., who at the time was an industrial-design curator for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

The three architects and founders of Grupo Austral showcased the newly designed Butterfly seat at a Buenos Aires exhibition in 1940. Kaufmann was so impressed by the chair design that he immediately imported two chairs. One was meant for MOMA and another one for Frank Lloyd Wright's FallingWater.

In 1947, renowned American furniture maker Knoll obtained the US manufacturing rights of the Butterfly chair. This brought worldwide recognition and economic success to the design. Knoll estimates that over 5 million pieces were mass-produced in the 1950s.

How Does the Butterfly Chair Look?

The chair features a welded frame of light tubular steel rods shaped into a hammock-like structure. The metal base has an odd shape resembling a butterfly's wings. Designers achieved the minimal steel frame by playing with and redesigning the Tripolina frame.

The canvas or leather cover rests on the steel frame, forming a sack seat. This gives the chair an elegant look, while the fabric material leans more toward a casual design.

The versatility of the sling chair makes it suitable for almost every room. It can sit perfectly in your living room, study room, bedroom, or around the dining room table. If you love the outdoors, you can also place the chair on the deck, terrace, or balcony.

Where to Buy a Butterfly Chair?


If you're interested in the Butterfly Chair design, look no further than CA Modern Home. Established in 2002, the upscale furniture brand offers contemporary, modern furnishings and home accessories to a consumer base seeking unique and creative design but with a classic feel.

The furniture store carries the timeless Pierre Paulin Butterfly Chair. It features leather draped over a brushed stainless steel frame. The dimensions are 25.6 inches high by 31.5 inches wide by 27.6 inches deep. The seat measures 13.4 inches high.

You can choose from three leather types:

  • Black saddle leather
  • Natural saddle leather
  • Black and white cowhide

Pierre Paulin Butterfly Chair is a more comfortable and stylish design and can be sat on for hours on end. It goes for $2,615.

The Bottom Line

The BFK design is a must-have in your home if you appreciate vintage pieces of any kind. Apart from owning a classic piece of furniture, you’ll be able to relax and lounge on it comfortably for hours. Besides, they are versatile and fit well in almost any room in your house.

And the best part? A Butterfly Chair gets better with age and can be passed on from one generation to the next.

Esti Cohen
Esti Cohen

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