What’s Behind the Louis Ghost Chair Lust?


Product design god Philippe Starck can make even the most banal product look good. From Ian Schrager-approved glitzy hotels to Target brand tape dispensers to underwear and spaceports, the Frenchman’s impeccable eye allows him to one-up pretty much any inventor ever. So it seems fitting that his most revered design might end up being a cheeky twist on a chair fit for a king — a clear, plastic piece of furniture that manages to be elegant instead of clunky.

The ironic seat has had design-lovers coming out of their skull since its introduction in 2002: It sits permanently in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, mags like Real Simple claim it will appreciate in value ten fold in the coming years, and it’s even available in Lou Lou Ghost mini-varieties for equally decor snobby babies.

But why ever is this ghoulishly named chair considered such a big whoopty-doo? Because Starck deigns use a plus-symbol instead of a “t” in his last name?

The designer has said “I don’t work, I dream,” and at first glance, consumers might think he is dreaming to charge them $410 (the MoMA store’s current non-member rate) for a fancy plastic lawn chair. But the Ghost chair’s appeal hangs on its mix of pedigree and innovation. Starck’s twist on the classic French Louis XVI attributes combines extreme geometry with feminine edge. The round back and slightly undulated arm gives way to a stick straight leg, a form that should be familiar to anyone who has heard of Versailles (or a modern estate sale).

But Starck’s attention to 1000-level art history isn’t the only thing that’s impressive here. The chair is made by injecting plastic into a single-mold form, freeing it from any joints or bindings, creating a piece that is both delicate and indestructible. The polycarbonate is supposedly so hardcore it can handle all manner of abuse, with Kartell claiming it is shock, scratch and weather resistant as well. Aesthetically pleasing, meet tough as nails.

When the New York Times briefly described the plastic chair after its unveiling at the International Furniture Fair in Milan in 2002, they said that it did three things brilliantly: “It makes Louis XV modern; it stacks to save storage space; and it sells for $198.” Of course they got the price wrong, and later corrected it to $225, but their quick gush was just the beginning of the design world’s love affair with this now ubiquitous chair. As of August of this year, the NYT claims that over a million have been sold (no retraction on that one just yet).

What they forgot to add is that the Louis Ghost is perfect for modern tiny living. The barely-there tinted Lucite makes it ideal for areas that you don’t want to appear visually crowded. Available in a host of opaque options (crystal, smoke, yellow, sunset orange, crystal green and ice blue), it works as nothing more than a whisper (or a rose-tinted one) in an interior. Those looking for more visual bang for their buck can opt for heftier matte colors like glossy white and black. Those looking to order 50 chairs with expensive creepy decals can check Unica Home for options that display their love of bears, masks or baby faces sans eyes. Those looking to buy us a set can send a check made out to Flavorwire to 594 Broadway, Suite 1212, NY, NY 10012.

– Kimberly Moreau