Have you ever heard the expression “Form follows Function”? It is a design principle used by designers that implies a product should be constructed based on functional needs. Too often, when it comes to furniture shopping, customers concentrate on the overall appearance and ignore how it will affect their physical health. Many believe that their back or neck pain is due to a past injury or old age when, in fact, it’s because of their poorly designed and constructed furniture. Therefore, no matter how much aesthetics may drive furniture selection, it is also crucial to consider who the user is and how it will affect them. This is where the terms seating anthropometrics and ergonomics come into play.


What is seating anthropometrics?

Anthropometrics is “the science of measuring the size and proportions of the human body, especially as applied to the design of furniture and machines (dictionary.com).”

When it comes to furniture design, anthropometrics takes into account a human’s body proportion in relation to the furniture piece’s function. For example, a dining room chair should provide the user with proper upright seating while taking into account they will be eating. Therefore, the dining room table measurements are also accounted for when designing the chair.

Dimensions that are considered are the user’s seat height, seat depth, and backrest angle (also known as “pitch”), among others. These dimensions work for approximately 90 percent of the population.


What is seating ergonomics?

Ergonomics is “the design to support function and comfort for human use, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal problems, joint pain, back issues, and arthritis (Penkethgroup).”

In seating design, ergonomics is an important factor to consider in seat design because we spend most of the time in a sitting position, whether at home on the sofa or during work at your desk. Seat cushions and back pillows are intended to support proper posture and overall health.

Examples of ergonomic design include seat depth, which should allow space between the back of knees and sitting furniture to prevent pressure on the blood vessels and allow for proper circulation. Seat cushions that are too soft can also be detrimental as they often do not provide enough support which can lead to back and hip back problems. Poorly designed furniture can also worsen a preexisting condition with continued use. The foam in cheaply constructed seat cushions have more air bubbles and thus break down quickly, losing their supportive qualities.

While anthropometrics and ergonomics may seem like intimating scientific principles, Barnes has nearly 50 years of experience to ensure that our designs are the perfect proportion, scale and design to ensure comfort, support and long-term health. We will apply this knowledge to any style or design you bring to us.


A few common principles:

–        For most individuals, the optimal sofa is 40” deep, 84” long, and 34” high with 17” seat height.

–        Very low sitting furniture (seat heights below 17”) should be firmer or many would have trouble standing from seated position.

–        The lower the seat height, the deeper the seat depth should be.

–        There should always be a minimum of 12” between your dining surface and your seat height, whether it’s a counter with a stool or a table with a chair.

–        5” is an ideal differential between seat height and arm height. The difference makes the arm high enough to rest your elbow comfortably.