The OMK stacking chair, or Omkstak, bounced into Habitat stores with childish verve in a choice of red, green, yellow, black and white dressed with a lick of epoxy resin.
This new star of a chair, with its industrially spray-painted and perforated pressed-steel seat, and its short back that clipped, screwed and tucked into a continuous tubular steel frame, packed quite a punch when first released in 1971.
Fresh out of the prestigious Central School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) in London, with a thirst for early Modernism and the Bauhaus and a passion for tubular steel, Rodney Kinsman and Polish designer Jurek Olejnik set up OMK Design with British band manager Bryan Morrison in 1965, using initials from their surnames.
Terence Conran snapped up their early designs and, after a few years of designing furniture aimed at thrifty homeowners for what was then an embryonic Habitat chain, they looked more towards the contract market.
What looks like inspiration from the Swiss Landi and a lesson in stacking from David Rowland’s 40/4 “was actually inspired by the automotive industry and more specifically the Willy’s Jeep” according to Kinsman.
“The monocoque seat panel is reminiscent of the jeep bonnet, and forms the main structural element of the chair, eliminating the need for crossrails. The punched holes in the seat and back are not purely aesthetic; they reduce weight and the flanged holes strengthen the sheet.”
Fun, cheap and indestructible, these mass-produced chairs could stack up to twenty-five high, and had a handle at the top for ease of movement.
You can now get a galvanized version, although original OMKs are designed for use inside and outside. The license was taken on by Bieffe, the Italian producers of Joe Colombo’s Boby Trolley, for whom Kinsman designed a range of products during the seventies and eighties including the Tokyo Stool and Orbit Mirror.
The Omkstak pressed-steel stacking chair proved a huge success worldwide, with British designer Kinsman going on to design many more award-winning public seating systems.