In Review

Emmy Taimour and Adil Amin on Haworth’s Fern Chair

25 Sep , 2018  

We invited Emmy Taimour, Associate Design Director at DWP, and Adil Amin, Head of Interior Design at Bluehaus, to experience Haworth’s premium entry in the task chair market – the Fern. Joining us was Gina Birkhofer, Senior Business Development Manager from Haworth, to explain the chair’s numerous features. At the end of the session, we all left convinced that this was one incredibly comfortable chair, and for Adil, it was simply love at first sight…


Haworth’s latest chair is perhaps their most research-driven ergonomic innovation yet. The Fern’s design has the input of 5.5 billion points of research through Haworth’s collaboration with the Human Performance Institute at Western Michigan University (WMU), and backed by medical professionals at the very beginning of the design process. The overall verdict is that this is an aesthetically beautiful and exceptionally comfortable chair that we grew to love.

What you notice at first glance is the edgeless, completely wrapped back, which is a nice departure from the plastic or metal frame that tends to rub against you when seated. The Fern is engineered to manage a variety of positions. A total of nine adjustment levers and knobs provide a pretty comprehensive range of customisation options, embodying Haworth’s ‘Sit Well. Work Well. Feel Well.’ design mindset. These adjustments also make the Fern one those few chairs that can accommodate an incredibly wide range of body types and sizes – great for a multicultural market like Dubai.

“We tell all our clients to just ‘give it a try’, because that is all it takes to win them over,” says Gina proudly. “We have yet to receive a negative response or a return.”

Adil Amin from Bluehaus Group (top) and Emmy Taimour from DWP with Gina Birkhofer (above) try out the Haworth Fern

First thoughts when you tried out the chair…

Adil: The comfort level of this chair is incredible. It’s got an inviting look that makes you want to try it out immediately. I was sent this chair for a trial at the Bluehaus offices, but the moment I sat in it, I knew I was keeping it. They had to send another chair for the rest of the office to review. A year later, the Fern is still ‘MY’ chair.

Emmy: I agree, it’s extremely comfortable! It is also light, sturdy and aesthetically pleasing, with an interesting ‘subtle yet modern’ look.

The chair sports 4D arms, seat depth adjustment, a forward tilting mechanism, and the tension tilt lever amongst many more customisable elements, only adding to the superior comfort it provides, and leaving us with a sense of being cocooned.

However, these features are not new in terms of innovation. What truly wowed us was the centralised Stem™ from which flows the chair’s clever responsive motion. This centred spine holds the ‘fronds’ extending from it like leaves. Each frond is calibrated to support a different area of the back, from the thoracic (upper back) to the lumbar and pelvic areas. The entire seating mechanism moves with you as you sit, providing a gentle transition for the body from standing to the seated position. We love the fact that the chair allows us to slouch a bit too (although we don’t recommend it). The back twists and adjusts based on movement, providing continuous support, and allows a 156 degree recline. It can also withstand a whopping 150 kilos in weight!

Fern’s Wave Suspension™ system is at the center of the design, and the key to its seating comfort. As Gina explains, the back may look simple in appearance, but is the result of a tremendous amount of science, engineering and innovation that allows it to work with you, not against you.

According to Gina, an incredibly valuable aspect of the Fern chair is its ability to cater to a wide range of users, more than most competing options in the market. This gives it a considerable advantage, especially considering the varied demographic of the Middle East. The Fern also comes in a range of material choices, making it fun to design with, and is useful in any setting, including executive offices or boardrooms.

…And in terms of functionality, design and usage?

Emmy: The chair wins points for it’s highly adjustable armrests, lumbar support, air circulation and backrest. The back suspension is great and adds to the comfort level. It also features all the adjustments you would expect from a great chair. The height, tilt, seat depth and armrests are easy to adjust no matter what type of work you do. And because it also comes at a mid-range price level, I would consider using it within an education as well as work environment.

Adil: Great product overall. Comfort is definitely the product’s strength. The high back version further adds to that. So between the aesthetic design and comfort, Haworth has gotten their balance right with this one. Personally, I would use this chair in my meeting rooms.

We did question the Fern’s availability as a range – did it come with a visitor chair, executive option, or any other matching seating? “As this is a new addition to our portfolio, we need to get the entire family right first,” says Gina. “The aesthetics of this particular chair are as important as the ergonomics. Therefore, for now we have only the stools and headrest chairs available in Middle East.”

Another angle to consider is the price of the Fern, which places it in the premium line up of task chairs. This begs the question: Would it encroach into the Zody’s target market? (Zody is Haworth’s original premium task chair).

How does the chair fare in the aesthetics department?

Emmy: I’m loving the finesse in its design. The ‘fern’ detail and the airiness in the mesh is a lovely addition, especially as the light filters through. The subtlety of its controls also adds to the design, giving it a friendly feel, as opposed to a complicated gadgety look. As a designer, I would say that the extended material choice is a huge bonus to the look and feel of the product.

Adil: The numerous colour mix options that are possible with the back trim and finish, is a value to both clients and designers. It’s nice to have that flexibility with a task chair, and it makes for a more thought out product. You can go with a bold or bright look, or in the sober, minimal direction, depending on the project or theme of your design.

However Gina is not too worried about crossing markets with Zody. “Firstly because of their design differences and secondly, because of the individuality of their features. Where Zody has an asymmetrical lumbar support, Fern has a thoracic support. In addition to that, personal preferences would most certainly come into play in the choice of chair as they are quite different from each other. If you sit them side by side, you will understand.”

Any suggestions on improving this product?

Adil: One thing I would change is the design of the height adjustment lever.  I feel it isn’t consistent with the chair’s overall aesthetic.

Emmy: I would like to have the option of having a personalised design printed on the mesh. That would be very cool!

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