Product:Generation by Knoll Price: $897 (w/polished base, high performance arms options) Rating: Strong Recommend*
It's not often you commend something for being "hardly there", but that's exactly what we noticed a few hours in while working from the Generation by Knoll, a chair designed with an innovate flex-back suspension system whose physical features reflects Knoll's goal of creating a seating option equally flexible for a variety of situational use in a work environment (or in our case, the home office). After weeks of use, we can now report if this new design is a generation forward or reveals a generation gap when it comes to workplace comfort.
Aesthetically, the chair's initial impression was an immediate positive one. The light and darker gray color combination, partnered with a shiny metal base imparted just enough personality to be noticed, but avoided the visual heaviness that some task chairs bring into a smaller space like our own. A plastic base is also available, but that takes us to one of few detracting attributes of the Generation task chair. All the operational controls on the arms and seat are are made of plastic, which feel a few millimeters short of feeling satisfyingly substantial. It doesn't feel like anything would break, but the left seat-side lever felt noticeably a little loose, compared to the right.
Initially our review unit would crack sharply from the wheel/base section when shifting, but the sound disappeared after a few days of use and has since been very silent and might have been due to the hard wheel option our chair came with (a hardwood soft wheel option is available). Operationally, everything worked well and we didn't need to change settings once getting comfortable in the chair after initial fiddling, so in everyday use the plastic controls were a non-factor.
Back to the design: the heart and soul of Knoll's Generation's design stems from its flexible high performance elastomer back; the design forgoes the need for a hard frame and thus the chair's most remarkable attribute advertises its free-feeling comfort. Upon first glance one might expect the feel to be similar to the "mesh net" feel of the Herman Miller Aeron. But once seated, the sensation is much more supportive and lumbar support feels nearly like an internal extension of the lower back muscles rather than an invasive exterior system with pressure points, while also providing sufficient support at the mid-back region (for reference, we're a solid 170lbs, so no lightweights here). We especially liked the cooler feel opposed to warm temperature fabric of other chairs that can cause overheating and bacne - back acne - after long stretches during warmer months.
With the ability to flex up to 270 degrees, the chair is especially adept at times when you need to pivot around to talk or glance back around. Recline angles can be controlled with a lever, alongside the position of the seat cushion. Our review unit also came equipped with the adjustable arms, which we highly recommend for mousing and keyboard use.
Our well worn Leap chair looks downright dowdy next to the Generation.
As mentioned earlier, the Generation quickly proved to be ergonomically comfortable to work in for long hour stretches, disappearing from thought and adjusting adeptly to our various seated posture throughout the day and evening. If you're someone who likes to change positions throughout the day, the Generation is your chair, capable of adjusting to front and sideways seating. Our old reliable Steelcase Leap has done great service for countless hours as our primary task seating, but comparatively the Generation feels more comfortable (though construction-wise, we still believe the Steelcase feels more solid), despite less material and less plush seating area. The flexibility and lightweight materials afford more fluid motion when turning, sitting back or getting in and out of the chair, affording us a more comfortable long-term sensation (or lack thereof).
On the environmental front, the Generation by Knoll is the first chair to be rated SMaRT Sustainable Platinum. Recycled material content, low emitting materials, minimal parts in manufacturing process and PVC free; there's no noticeable "new product" off-gassing that we sometimes experience while testing new furniture in our modest sized apartment.
Knoll doesn't advertise the Generation as a true long-hour task chair, marketing it against the similar "less is more" design of the Herman Miller Setu; categorically, these are occasional task chair that can be dragged into a meeting room as occasional seating, informal meetings and also for easy collaborative work environments. But after using the Generation in a mostly solo home office environment, the Generation can't be ignored as a strong candidate for home office use also. The compact size, the airy-flexible support, adaptable personality, and the chair's strong eco-friendly construction make it a solid contender as your next task chair. Especially so since the Generation can be had for reasonable prices online with a little Google footwork.
Pros: Flex Back design offers excellent support and range of motion; warm bodied users will enjoy cooler feel of elastomer material; SMaRT Sustainable Platinum rated, GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality certified and constructed with 40%-46% recycled materials; lightweight and easy to move around, available colorways offer combinations that range from serious to eye-catching.
Cons: Arm surface could be a tad softer; audible cracking sound when shifting weight or getting into or out of chair at wheel/base; may not be recommended for people who like extremely firm/adjustable backs due to integrated flex back design.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.