Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

Samuel Wilkinson designs contemporary take on the director's chair

British designer Samuel Wilkinson has updated the classic director's chair, introducing a hidden mechanism that allows the fabric seat to be held in tension without any noticeable support.

The London-based designer created the Prop chair for The Conran Shop, which tasked him with creating a folding chair with a simple aesthetic that could be used indoors and outdoors.

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

Due to the retailer's customer base being focused around its main locations in London and Paris, the project was driven by the needs of high-end urban consumers.

"A lot of the customers we were targeting live in nice apartments but don't have lots of space," Wilkinson told Dezeen, "so it's useful for them to own flexible furniture that looks good on a terrace but can also work inside."

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

The Prop chair aims for a cleaner aesthetic than existing fabric folding-chairs, which typically feature horizontal struts that lock in place to push the two sides of the frame apart and maintain tension in the seat.

Wilkinson's design replaces this element with a specially developed mechanism hidden in the rear hinge between the back supports and arm sections.

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

The rotating mechanism allows the arms to fold in one direction and stop at 20 degrees in the other. This prevents the rails along the sides of the seat from hitting each other as the chair is folded.

The mechanism also locks the frame in place when it is unfolded, ensuring there is enough tension in the seat to comfortably support the sitter.

The fabric seat tapers slightly at the front and back to increase the amount of tension in these areas and improve comfort.

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

The chair takes its name from its propeller-like tubular steel frame, which is asymmetrically pressed to create flat sections at the centre where the two halves meet.

The specially developed pressing creates a particularly thin and efficient form where the central hinge is located. The hinge itself is only visible on the inner surface.

The chair's armrests are made from turned maple-wood with dished end details and machined recesses underneath that reveal the rounded ends of the metal frame.

The heavy cotton canvas seat is available in four colours, with a leather option providing an alternative for high-end interior projects. A folding table and padded lounge-chair that complement the Prop chair are currently under development.

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

In 2019, Wilkinson worked with The Conran Shop to design a dining chair based on the materials used to create classic 19th-century bistro chairs.

Wilkinson founded his eponymous industrial design studio in 2008. He focuses on pursuing fresh and innovative design solutions, backed by a strong understanding of materials and manufacturing processes.

Prop chair Samuel Wilkinson

He is best known for designing the award-winning Plumen 001 light bulb, and in 2018 launched his own lighting brand focusing on new uses for the latest LED-bulb technology.

Wilkinson's previous furniture projects include a simple chair made using the traditional steam-bending techniques, and a collection of lightweight aluminium furniture for Italian brand EMU.

Photography is by Sylvain Deleu.