Wrong Chairs


Wrong Chairs. © Thea Volk. Courtesy of Volume Gallery.


Project by Norman Kelley (Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley)


wrong I. a vagabondage of the imagination, of the mind that is not subject to any rule.1


The Wrong Chairs are an exercise in error. The collection consists of seven chairs that purposefully disrupt the notion of “correctness” by applying a medley of design mistakes to the iconic American Windsor chair. The Windsor chair, with its British roots, has become a symbol of colonial America—a chair that is unadorned and democratic in design. More importantly, however, it is also a forgettable chair. You might vaguely remember your grandmother having one in her kitchen. At first glance, the collection blends into the images we hold of domestic memories we’ve encountered at some point or another, but, at second glance, they’re more unreasonable. In using an object readily recognized and imbedded with nostalgia, the collection utilizes the Windsor chair as the control—a seemingly ordinary object— for the exploration of “wrongness.”

Inspired by deceptive optics and adapting specifications from master craftsman Dr. John Kassay’s drawings of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American Windsor furniture, the collection plays an optical game (paused only when the observer is seated), taunting the observer to pay attention and to interpret the visual boundaries of anamorphism, trompe l’oeil, and forced perspective. In provoking the observer to confront a traditional object transformed with intended error, the historic Windsor chair is resituated through a contemporary lens that is at once defective and functional.

What we typically perceive as being wrong with design often hinges on geometric imprecision or a lack of command over tolerances. We concede, however, that most things are susceptible to being wrong. Our aim is to discipline that potential for error toward new forms of making and observation. So please do sit down. The collection is at once both wrong and right. While the chairs may appear at times broken or unbalanced, they are structurally sound.



Drawings modified by Norman Kelley from John Kassay, The Book of American Windsor Furniture: Styles and Technologies, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.







1. David Bates, Enlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).


Design Team: Norman Kelley. Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman.
Fabrication: Rives Rash, Rash, LLC.
Representation: Sam Vinz and Claire Warner, Volume Gallery.
Photographs: Thea Volk. All photographs courtesy of Volume Gallery.
Drawings: Norman Kelley.


Norman Kelley is an architecture and design collaborative between Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley based out of New York City and Chicago. Thomas Kelley (MArch, Princeton University / BArch, University of Virginia) is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Visiting Critic at Syracuse University. Carrie Norman (MArch, Princeton University / BArch, University of Virginia) is a licensed architect and Design Associate with SHoP Architects in New York City. Their design work is represented by Volume Gallery in Chicago. Most recently, their work has been featured in Log 31: New Ancients and in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

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