15 Famous Chairs + What Ellen and the Judges Would Say About Them

Would some of pop culture’s best-known furniture earn a place at the table on 'Ellen’s Design Challenge'? Grab a seat and find out.

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Dr. Evil’s Chair From 'Austin Powers'

Aesthetically pleasing, ergonomically appropriate if you were recovering from being cryogenically frozen for thirty years, with clean, geometric lines that feel true to its owner’s villainous aesthetic: this design is a real success, particularly in comparison to sharks with laser beams on their heads. 

Captain Kirk’s 'Star Trek' Command Chair

Kirk’s chair from the ‘60s Star Trek set at Paramount Studios sold for a cool $304,000 in 2002, and Trekkies both buy and build their own replicas of it all over the world. With blocky, confident, sci-fi chic —and the reported ability to send a shiver of William Shatner’s campy cool down your spine when you sit in it — this chair is man cave-ready.

Chairy From 'Pee Wee’s Playhouse'

As Pee Wee Herman’s anthropomorphic furniture/roommate, Chairy certainly had personality— a simple, sidekick-ish personality, sure, but when your seating can move and sing, predictability is a good thing. No one wants volatile upholstery.

The Queen of England’s Throne

QE2’s Throne in the House of Lords does not look comfortable, and as the judges are fond of saying, a piece’s form can’t outweigh its function. It does seem like the only seat in which it would be plausible to wear that cloak and crown during the State Opening of Parliament; since it’s used on an extremely limited basis a handful of times each year, its bling might excuse its probable effect on Her Majesty’s lower back.

'The Voice' Judges’ Chairs

Given Ellen’s love for The Voice and its judges, her take on their ultra-functional chairs goes without saying. While their seats’ utility in non-national-singing-competition settings is...less certain, being able to smack a big red button, spin around, and say “I WANT YOU” every now and then does sound kind of fun, even if you’re referring to a bowl of microwave popcorn.

Vincent van Gogh’s Chair (1888)

This is a good example of why post-Impressionists make problematic furniture makers. From across the room, this rustic chair really says “taking it easy in a 19th-century Dutch cottage.” When you get up close, though, let’s be honest: it starts to look sloppy.

The Iron Throne From 'Game of Thrones'

Speaking of uncomfortable royalty, the Iron Throne is built of a thousand swords surrendered by enemies of the first King of the Seven Kingdoms, and took 59 days to build. On how many of those days did Aegon the Conqueror ask himself, “Is my avant-garde use of materials going to prove to be a design flaw that would be dangerous for a user, not unlike a nursery changing table without a railing?” None, which is why everyone looks miserable when they become Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Lincoln Memorial

How better to showcase a material’s special aspects than to match it — exactly — to its user? Both Abe and his classical perch are made of Georgia white marble, and it’s hard to imagine him sitting anywhere else. Well done, Daniel Chester French.

Martin Crane’s Recliner From 'Frasier'

Forget about the salvage yard; Frasier’s dad’s duct-taped old chair would have a hard time finding a friend on the sidewalk with a FREE TO A GOOD HOME sign. That said, it’s the best-loved chair in this roundup — by its owner, anyway.

Michael Corleone’s 'The Godfather: Part II' Chair

This chair does what it needs to do, but its gravitas is all Al Pacino’s; he’s sitting on a comparatively plain piece of lounge furniture with an expression that says it’s built of a thousand swords surrendered by enemies, à la the Iron Throne. The clash feels like a missed opportunity; a risk would have been welcome here.

Bamboo-and-Rope Recliner From 'Gilligan’s Island'

Now, this is making do with limited materials at its most impressive. Never mind disappearing after a three-hour tour; if you can make an indoor/outdoor recliner with flotsam on an uncharted desert isle, you’re doing something very, very right.

Whistler’s Mother’s Chair (1871)

The Victorian case goods popular in James McNeill Whistler’s time tended to have rather severe lines, and we can all agree that Ma Whistler looks like a “less is more” type — but the thought of her modeling in that now-iconic position for hours on end is a painful one. Here’s hoping there’s an old-timey lumbar pillow hidden between her and the hardwood of "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1."

Morpheus’s Red Leather Wingback From 'The Matrix'

The color story here — Morpheus asks Neo to choose between a blue pill that will send him back to his non-life and a red pill that will blow his mind while sitting in a huge red chair — isn’t a subtle one, but it’s well executed. Speaking of tumbling down the rabbit hole...

The Caterpillar’s Toadstool From 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland'

...Lewis Carroll’s toadstool could be the most ingenious seat ever made. Unlike adjustable chairs that conform to their users, it actually adjusts its users (if you want to be bigger, you eat one side of the mushroom; if you want to be smaller, you eat the other side). The liability insurance needed to mass-produce and market a toadstool chair would be cost-prohibitive, to be sure, but as an art piece, it’s awfully cool.

Edith Ann’s Rocking Chair From 'Laugh In'

When Lily Tomlin first played five-year-old Edith Ann on Laugh-In, the show’s producers made her perform in a refrigerator box. Viewers loved her, the show finally gave in to her giant prop request, and her massive rocking chair became a comedy icon. Nothing telegraphs confidence like sticking to your guns and committing to a really big piece.

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