A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair

An exhibition focusing on the art of chair design!

On view April 22 – May 22, 2022

Photos: Derek Hayn/Centerbrook


Hill-Stead embodies a passion for all manner of design—architecture, interior appointments, artistic vision painted on a canvas or etched into a plate and transferred to paper, horticultural…the list goes on. At design’s most basic level, Hill-Stead is a microcosm for life.

On the occasion of its 75th birthday, Hill-Stead takes this opportune moment in its history to reflect on the past as well as looking ahead to the future. We have partnered with Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the firm that designed our award-winning renovation and state-of-the-art new galleries, to present A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair. The exhibition focuses on an item that is critical to our daily lives: the chair.

A chair meets dynamic forces with relatively slender parts. It also has to be comfortable and beautiful from all vantage points, like a sculpture. While many architects have designed a chair, it should be noted that after the experience the renowned architect Mies van der Rohe quipped, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.”

The chairs on view – those by Theodate Pope Riddle and the 20+ gorgeous examples by participants of The Centerbrook Chairshop – will serve as a connection between the past and the present, engendering appreciation, and curiosity. The Chairshop began in 2012 and reflects the firm’s devotion to craft, beauty, economy, and humanism. In designing her chairs, for her two landmark halls of education (Avon Old Farms and Westover schools), Theodate was equally concerned with how the buildings would be lived in by generations of students and faculty as by the physical attributes of the structures themselves. While she may not have put pencil to paper to sketch the actual design concepts for desks and chairs and tables and beds, she mentally designed the furnishings by selecting, or directing the manufacture of, pieces simple in design but of the utmost quality in materials and workmanship to fit within her overarching vision.

This exhibition is therefore timely and meaningful as we mark our 75th anniversary, honor our architect-founder as well as our collaboration with Centerbrook, and celebrate the power of inspired design.