The Airline Armchair
By Kem Weber
In the early 1930s, mid-century architect and designer Kem Weber, who built his career on the West Coast, was hired by Walt Disney Studios to produce an entire set of furnishings for their headquarters in Burbank, California. Amongst the group of commissioned models from 1934 was Weber’s distinguished Airline Armchair, of which, three hundred pieces were ordered by Disney for their projection rooms, lounges, and offices. The design and name of the chair, which was finally produced in 1939, came from the decade’s growing desire to associate with the modern industry of air travel, particularly concerning exploratory passenger flights of the 1930s.
The Airline Chair’s ‘knockdown’ design was an early example of easy-to-construct, self-assembly furniture, sold to the consumer in parts for final assembly at home. It’s cantilevered, upholstered seat and structural wooden frame dismantled and fit within a suitcase-like square cardboard box finished with a single top handle, the idea being that consumers could purchase the design and travel with it freely on airplanes to any far-off destination they desired.