Chierowski armchair type 366 – an ‘accidental’ icon

Until recently, furniture from the communist era were considered by most an utter rubbish and were happily exchanged by owners for Ikea flatpack. Today the same furniture pieces became the desirable iconic items, with steadily increasing prices. The type 366 armchair designed by Józef Chierowski is one of them and arguably one of the most recognisable models in Polish design.

I remember the 366 armchair, or ‘Chierek’ (as some affectionately call this armchair) since I was really little child. It was a part of the interiors of flats, cafes and offices during communist time, and remains present in some of them today. The simple, yet modern and functional form meant, that 366 has successfully survived the test of time, and nowadays finds its place in more and more modern apartments of people for whom retro design is no longer a necessity, but a conscious choice.

Chierowski 366 armchair as an element of interior in cafe ‘Kawiarnia Miła”. Own photo archive.

The designer – Józef Marian Chierowski (1927 – 2007)

Chierowski graduated from the Faculty of Interior Design at the PWSSP in Wrocław, Poland (currently Academy of Fine Arts) in 1952. After graduation, he stayed with his alma mater to teach subjects in the field of interior and product design. During his career, he designed interiors of the Provincial Public Library in Wrocław and Kalisz, and the Department of Electronic Computing Technology. However, the most popular of his designs was this of the 366 armchair.

Józef Chierowski at work. Photo 366 Concept.

The factory – Lower Silesian Furniture Factory

Chierowski collaborated with the Lower Silesian Furniture Factory (Dolnośląska Fabryka Mebli) in Świebodzice and there, in the late 1950s, he created his famous armchair. At its peak, LSFF comprised production plants in 10 different cities (Świdnica, Bystrzyca Kłodzka, Lubawka, Świebodzice, Jawor, Wrocław, Dzierżoniów, Wałbrzych, Kłodzko and Srebrna Góra) and employed a total of around 3,500 people.

The project – a fire was to blame for everything…

Curiously, Józef Chierowski came up with the idea for the design of the 366 armchair in dramatic circumstances. Right after the fire in the Świebodzice plant, which consumed most of the production halls and equipment, the factory management was looking for a project that would make up for the losses in a short time, and at a low cost. Chierowski decided to take this opportunity to design a piece of furniture different than any other. The factory staff quickly realised that Chierowski’s chair, thanks to its simplicity, could re-start the production line the fastest.

Despite the fact that 366 quickly became extremely popular piece of furniture, its creator remained in the shadow for a long time. In communist reality, the role of a designer during production process was sidelined. Factory’s achievements, not individual, mattered the most during that era. Józef Chierowski did not remain completely anonymous, but still little is known about his work.

The product – type 366 armchair

The 366 armchair with its simple, modern design was very different from the heavy, pre-war furniture that at the time were still commonly present in the Polish houses. It was made of widely available, yet modern materials. The integration of the seat with backrest and armrests guaranteed the ergonomics and comfort, and its functional and light form was emphasised by thin, tapered legs. The minimalist design was available in three types of wood: ash, beech and oak. By 1967, the armchair was produced in the number of 500,000 pieces, which is a truly astonishing result.

Page from old furniture catalogue showing Chierowski armchair type 366

The programme – Furniture for Small Apartments (Meble do Małych Mieszkań)

The time when Chierowski started working for the LSFF in 1952 coincided with a period of quite intensive re-shaping of the post-war socialist reality in Poland. The government’s concept was to market relatively cheap and space-saving furniture, ideal for mass production and suitable for cramped apartments. Pre-war furniture, so heavy and large, completely did not fit this idea. The fire in the factory in Świebodzice partially solved the problem of one of the main limitations – the strict restrictions of the machine park, which had to be rebuilt almost from scratch. For young Chierowski, damage to factory caused by fire, unexpectedly opened up the possibility of implementing a completely new, fresh approach to a furniture design.

Well, after all every cloud has a silver lining… 🙂

Currently, the owner of the patent rights and the manufacturer of this iconic model is the Polish company 366 Concept.

Product technical info

StyleModernism
Model366
Designer / DateJózef Marian Chierowski / circa 1958/59
ManufacturerDolnośląskie Fabryki Mebli w Świebodzicach (until 1970), Głuchołaskie Fabryki Mebli – Głuchołazy, Świdnicki Ośrodek Przemysłu Meblarskiego (from 1970), Olsztyńskie Fabryki Mebli – Zakład w Pieckach
Country of originPoland
Size (HxWxD) cm71 x 62 x 62 cm / seat height 42 cm

Notes: Images vinterior.co

Writing this article, I sourced the informations from webpages: Wikipedia, cotozafotel.pl, czterykaty.pl, and books: Irma Kozina, Polski design, Wydawnictwo SBM, Warszawa 2015 and Katarzyna Jasiołek, Asteroid i półkotapczan, Wydawnictwo Marginesy 2020.