Design Classics #44: Safari Chair

This chair was inspired by a picture in a travel guide to Africa and has been a design classic since it first appeared in 1933.

Kaare Klimt's Safari Chair: a design classic
Kaare Klimt’s Safari Chair: a design classic

Kaare Klint was inspired by a British Officer’s chair he had seen in a travel guide for Africa. Apparently, he particularly liked the picture in which the author of the guide and his wife were seated in similar chairs by the entrance to their tent in the Savannah.

He set about making a light and portable armchair. The result can be easily assembled and disassembled without using any tools (take that Ikea) and has often been described as the world’s first build-it-yourself furniture. Indeed, it can be rolled up into a cardboard tube and posted to its destination.

It was Arne Jacobsen who suggested adding a seat cushion
It was Arne Jacobsen who suggested adding a seat cushion


Klint’s ability to produce a chair like this however, also demonstrates a detailed knowledge of his materials as well as the human body’s ergonomic requirements. Let’s not forget, Klint was Danish and they were, and are, particularly good at giving equal importance to both form and function.

The Safari Chair was Klint’s most famous piece and he sold the first ones to one of his peers Arne Jacobsen, who liked the simple functional style. But who, despite that, also suggested adding a seat cushion.

choose from a leather or canvas seat
choose from a leather or canvas seat

The first chairs were made from Cuban mahogany, but Klint later decided that the light coloured ash was better suited and it is still made from ash today, using wood from Danish forests.

Knud Erik Hansen, CEO of Carl Hansen & Son, which produces the Safari chair (following the acquisition of Rud. Rasmussen, the original manufacturers, in 2011) says producing these design classics is a big responsibility.

“The timeless design of the Safari chair appeals to generation after generation. It is essential to remain faithful to the original instructions and methods of craftsmanship which is the only way to ensure that the chair continues to be a design icon for future generations. We are conscious of the responsibility involved in producing on of Denmark’s classic pieces of furniture.”

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Tags : arne jacobsenDanish designdesign classicScandi chic
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.

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