By MICHAEL HSU
"YOU CAN'T TELL if any chair is comfortable until you've occupied it for at least an hour," Charles Eames once said, "and then you should return to it again and again in different moods." Today we might need to add to that, "And with different gadgets."
Our gear, of course, affects the way we sit. There's a difference between kicking back with a book and kicking back with a Nook. Still, it makes sense to smudge the line between ordinary furniture and the tech-centric kind. After all, gadgets have gotten so small that they're practically appendages. Your ottoman may be intended for your legs, but it also makes a sensible spot for your laptop. When your smartphone keyboard fits in your hand, the armrests on your seat become a de facto keyboard tray. Furniture can't keep up with technology, but these days, it really doesn't need to.
The tools that keep us productive are also sources of entertainment—the same applies to Lounge Chair 2.0. Whether you're working on a presentation or checking Facebook, it's nice to have a space within a space—your living room, bedroom or even deck—that's semi-private, quiet and, above all, inviting. We've pulled together a handful of luxurious sofas and lounge chairs that masquerade as intimate micro cubicles, theaters and reading nooks depending on the task—or distraction—at hand.
1. Cappellini's Capo Chair
With its slightly pitched seat, Capo is a chair that you lean back in. Designer Doshi Levien gave the chair flat armrests that splay outward. Because the armrests start out narrow and get wider as they move away from you, they're not ideal for typing on, but they do give you a convenient spot to rest your laptop or tablet. Like your tablet, the Capo appears impossibly light—it's little more than legs and upholstery. The designers compare the chair's high walls to an upturned collar. Understandably, the sides are not so tall that you can't see over them when seated, and they're rigid but offer a bit of give. Even without walling you off, though, Capo lets you opt for privacy. Turn Capo's back to the room (it's light enough to do this easily), and there's no mistaking that you'd prefer not to be disturbed. $5,000, cappellini.it
2. Blå Station's Innovation C
The Innovation C may look like it was designed for intergalactic space travel, but the chair can complement grand, traditional spaces as well. (I first came across these chairs in the centuries-old, medieval Salaborsa Library in Bologna, Italy, where they dot the periphery of the ground floor.) Its novel shape—essentially two parallel planes—also happens to be practical. What's most innovative about Innovation C is its open-endedness. Instead of a vertical seat back, Innovation C's goes horizontal, offering a comfortable place to rest your elbows when you're leaning back (no bulky armrests required). Swivel the chair around so the seat back is in front of you and you've got a surface on which to rest your laptop or book (it's set at the perfect height for working) or lean on while making a phone call. $4,525, blastation.com
3. Jayson Home's Canopy Chair
Lest you assume all visually and acoustically isolating seating to be a product of the iPod age, behold the Canopy Chair. It's a reproduction of a "porter's chair," which hails from the 16th century. Back in the day, the hall porter would hunker down in one of these; the high seat back and sides protected him from front-door drafts, while the hooded headrest helped him stay attuned to distant sounds. Its signature headrest is just as practical today. The "hoodie" is kind of like holding your hands up to your ears: In noisy environments, it makes conversations more intelligible; in quieter places, chatting with someone feels more intimate. If the burlap and exposed brass nailheads of this reproduction aren't your style, there are other equivalents. Jaime Hayon's Showtime Poltrona for BD Barcelona is a sleeker, but no less spectacular version, and it comes in glossy indoor and matte outdoor versions. $1,895, jaysonhome.com
4. Moroso's Take a Line for a Walk
If walling yourself off from the rest of the room is too extreme, designer Alfredo Häberli's Take a Line for a Walk strikes a good balance between intro- and extroversion. As with Arne Jacobsen's iconic Egg Chair (the midcentury classic that this chair evokes with more angular lines), the generously proportioned seat encourages you to curl up, while the enveloping headrest gives you a sense of separation without coming off as anti-social. It does an exceptional job of blocking out the periphery so you can pay attention to what's in front of you. There's a matching ottoman to complete the look, as well as a version of the chair with a low integrated footrest made of tubular metal that lets you take a load off without wondering whether you should remove your shoes. $4,126, moroso.com
5. Vitra's Alcove Sofa
The Alcove Sofa's soft, high walls allow it to play impromptu meeting area, workspace or nap spot—it serves all three purposes exceptionally well. Plop down in one and you're surrounded by the equivalent of sound-absorbing tile, which makes it ideal for contemplation, intimate conversation or recording the next episode of your YouTube series. Designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec supply the sofa with firm, fitted pillows, rather than overstuffed ones, to give rigor to what will easily be the coziest and most coveted spot in a home or office. (The Love Seat model is shown here.) The Alcove aspires to be a serious workplace as well. A single-seater "Workstation" model has a contoured desk on one side that flips up to reveal a storage compartment with slots to run cables through. It's the type of cubicle you'd want to trade your office for. $9,225, vitra.com
6. Offecct's Small Room
As its name suggests, Ineke Hans's series of short to long sofas provides the building blocks for creating a room within a room. The sofas have high backs and sides (roughly five-and-a-half-feet tall) and come in three complementary sizes—1, 1½ and 2 meters (about 3¼- to 6-feet long)—so they can be mixed and matched to fit various expanses. (The 1½-meter version is shown here.) Because each sofa has one enclosed side, they can be arranged in any combination (in a line, back to back, flipped front to back). The wide armrest can be outfitted with a writing surface or even a built-in flowerpot.$4,076, offecct.se