Robin Day Polyside and Armchair

The first Polypropylene chair designed by Robin Day was launched in 1963 after three years of development work. Polypropylene had been invented in 1954 but it had not been used in the furniture industry before. Robin Day and Hille developed seating using this new durable, cost-efficient material working in conjunction with the British petrochemical company Shell. Robin Day’s design concept included key elements such as hidden fixings using an integral fixing boss, a fully rolled edge to add strength and a range of bases which gave the chair the potential to appeal to a multitude of markets.

The investment for Hille for the moulding tool was huge at the time at around £6,000 and development of the product was very time consuming with many tests and alterations. In the 1960s there were no CAD or CGI facilities and early prototypes had to be created by hand with full product testing only possibly once the actual shell moulding had been created.

Original developmentOnce product development was complete Hille launched an inspired marketing campaign. Six hundred chairs were sent out as samples to major government buyers, architects and designers. This set in motion a campaign which resulted in Hille selling millions of units in the following years.

polyside chair tool manufacture

Following on from the dramatic success of the Polyside Chair, Hille was able to invest in the tooling required to mould an armchair. Robin Day’s Polypropylene Armchair was launched in 1967. Lighter, more durable and more affordable than the fibreglass tub chairs on the market.

The Polypropylene chairs were so successful that by the early 70’s Hille had licensees in 30 countries. The revenue generated helped overcome high import duties and shipping costs and provided funding for research and development. The British-made tools were shipped out to the licensees, along with comprehensive instructions covering every aspect of the chairs productions including materials and methods. In this way quality control of the designs was maintained.

By the early 1980s testing levels for severe contract use required the elegant original P5 stacking frame to be replaced by a more industrial frame. Though the P5 would still have been acceptable for domestic use, a decision was taken to drop it altogether. In 2009 the Poly side chair was featured on one of a series of stamps celebrating British Design classics. This cemented the chair’s place in design history. But to the very end of his life Robin Day regretted the loss of his elegant original frame design.

The historic relationship between Hille and the Day family was revived in 2015, when Hille began a collaboration with The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation. The Foundation is a design education Charity (no.1147979) set up by Robin Day’s daughter Paula Day in 2012. It is dedicated to promoting public knowledge of and access to Robin and Lucienne Day’s design legacies, and providing resources for the study of design. The Foundation licenses and endorses only high-quality authentic productions of Robin and Lucienne Days’ original designs.

Working closely with the Foundation, Hille has relaunched the Polyside with Robin Day’s elegant original P5 stacking frame. Both the Polyside and Armchair are now available in Robin Day’s distinguished original colours, exclusively from John Lewis. No effort has been spared to achieve high-quality authentic detailing to the frames and close colour matches to examples of the early production. As a result these great British design classics return to the market with all the freshness and authority they had when they were first launched in the 1960s.Design guild mark logo

In 2017 Hille was awarded the prestigious Design Guild Mark for the Polyside and Armchair as judges, specialists in their fields, evaluated the pieces as demonstrating mastery in design, materials, manufacture and function. 

First day cover with stamp of poly side

Polyside Chair Overall Dimensions

Size
Seat
height
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height
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depth
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width
  440mm 745mm 505mm 530mm

Armchair Overall Dimensions

Size
Arm
height
O/A
height
O/A
depth
O/A
width
  645mm 770mm 535mm 600mm