Seating need not be serious. In fact, there's no good reason why furniture in general can't be both fun and functional at the same time. Such is the case with the American-made Bel Canto chair, a stylish seat from industrial designer Joseph Nazari that uses strategically placed slides — rather than metal bearings — to facilitate smooth motion.

Back story

Bel Canto chair creator Joseph Nazari has a passion for physics. Armed with an interest in science and an MBA in industrial management, Nazari has owned several companies, from toy and paintbrush manufacturers to businesses in custom thermoforming and contract packaging. Besides his latest endeavor in furniture design, he operates Winterborne Inc., Chatsworth, Calif., his packaging design and fulfillment company.

Made in the U.S.A.

The newly launched Bel Canto chair is being welcomed into a wide range of settings, from private homes and art galleries to museums and other public spaces. Several colors and materials are available, including fiberglass ($1,800) and wood ($3,000). A leather model is coming soon. All parts are manufactured and assembled in the U.S., using locally produced materials. For more information, visit www.belcantochair.com.

Design details

During the Bel Canto's yearlong design and development cycle, Nazari painstakingly tested certain ideas in creating his novel chair only to discover that some of them worked while others did not. “In many instances, arriving at aesthetic choices were made to serve the function and vice versa,” says Nazari. The main challenge was enabling the chair to pivot and tilt according to an individual's center of gravity. To that end, Joseph envisioned and drafted different shapes before ultimately arriving at the circular bowl design, not only for the “purity of its contour and alignment,” but also for the concave support and range of motion it could provide. To fulfill its proposed functions, Nazari tested different hardwoods and polymers that would be suitably lightweight, yet able to withstand sufficient stress levels. While certain types of wood proved beautiful in finished form, they were eventually discarded due to density and weight concerns. Fiberglass became the first prototype because the material performed well in initial tests.

Achieving smooth motion was another challenging design issue. At first, Nazari designed a system that incorporated metal bearings to sustain radial and axial loads. This method had to be abandoned, however, as the bearings were too noisy and incapable of sliding as smoothly and as efficiently as required. Eventually Nazari replaced the bearings with a series of sliding pads at key contact points to achieve the chair's fluid motion.

Seating specs

  • Seating hemisphere allows for 360° rotation and 33° tilt

  • Wood model is machined from laminate of over 200 layers

  • Polyurethane coating provides a durable, glossy finish

  • Fiberglass model is handcrafted for a strong, uniform finish

  • Tested to support more than 250 lb

  • Base is made of 100% post-consumer aluminum

Slides proved better than bearings for the chair. In dynamic mode, strategically placed “glide panels” allow the hemisphere to rotate smoothly on its base. In static mode, six rubber pads lock it into any position.