Strictly speaking, beans bags are just sealed bags containing dried beans, pellets or expanded polystyrene. But for many of us who own them, they’re so much more than that. Bean bags have an ineffable sense of fun about them and instantly put you in the party mood, even if you’re cradling your laptop, responding to emails from your boss. The advantages and disadvantages of bean bags are many. On the plus side, they instantly evoke a sense of enjoyment and pleasure. While on the downside, they are not suitable for formal dining rooms.
Brands introduced the first bean bags in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were part of the “groovy wave” of the era that swept western nations, encouraging people to abandon the formalisms of the past and build their lives around whatever felt fun. Today, bean bags have become a ubiquitous seating option that you can find in a varied range of settings, from kids’ playrooms to office lounges.
In this post, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of bean bags. You’ll find out what’s great about them and also what isn’t so good.
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Bean Bags
Bean bags offer a host of advantages. These include:
Great For Posture
Regular chairs dictate what position you must adopt to sit in them. By and large, they’re rigid, with a fixed back and seat, giving you relatively little flexibility. Bean bags, however, don’t impose any such limitations on your body placement. You can sit up if you like, or you can lean back – it’s your choice. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can lie on them with your head over one edge and your knees and feet over the other. There are no rules.
For the 3.37 million people living in Australia with chronic back pain, this is excellent news. You’re free to shift your seating position however you like. If you feel a twinge in the lumbar spine, change your posture, and the tiny beads in the bag will automatically conform to the new pressure pattern.
While some designer bean bags carry higher price tags, by and large, they’re one of the most affordable seating options out there. And for a good reason. The combination of simple shell and filling is intrinsically cost-effective.
Once vendors get the casing right, it is just a matter of stuffing it with inexpensive materials and then zipping the thing up. There’s none of the lathing, processing or fine upholstery work associated with regular furniture-making. The manufacturing process is more akin to making a zipped sweater and stuffing it full of void loose-fill chips than carefully crafting a seat from scratch.
High Levels Of Comfort
We already alluded to the fact that bean bags offer a high level of comfort earlier, but why? The answer comes back to how vendors construct them. Conventional chairs use a combination of spring and foam to provide support to the body above. When you sit on them, these elements compress, spreading your weight over a wider area.
Bean bags work on a similar principle, but they do it better. That’s because the beans are free to move in any direction you like. Barring any limitations of the bag itself, you can create seating shapes that fit your body perfectly, making pressure points a thing of the past.
For some users, this ability to mould the seat into any shape you like is a godsend. Pregnant women, for instance, love the fact that they can move into different positions and get ample lumbar and back support. Bean bags permit sitting in a position that takes the pressure off the lower torso and abdominals in the third trimester.
Suitable For Outdoor Use
Industry research indicates that the outdoor segment of the bean bag market is growing at around 5.2 per cent per year – about twice as fast as the underlying economy. The reason for this comes from innovations in the market. Brands are now making chairs that you can use outside that’ll resist the elements. Thus, you can put your bean bag by the pool and spend all day sitting on it in comfort, instead of stretching out on an uncomfortable plastic sunlounger.
The sheer popularity of outdoor bean bags is spawning a secondary market for products to go with them. For instance, some vendors are now making bean bag-specific tables for drinks. These pieces of furniture are the right height for users to reach their drinks with ease.
Easy To Clean
Regular chairs are difficult to clean. You can’t just throw them in the wash with the rest of your laundry. Instead, you have to spot clean them – something that usually requires the help of professionals.
The cost of this is higher than most people expect. Data from HiPages suggest that the average homeowner pays anywhere between $20 and $250 on upholstery cleaning on a per-piece basis. The actual cost for cleaning an entire seat, however, is probably closer to the $50 to $200 range.
With bean bags, you don’t have to worry about this overhead. All you do is unzip the outer liner – the part of the product that accumulates the most dirt – and throw it in the wash according to the instructions. You pay whatever your regular washing machine cycle sets you back – usually less than a dollar.
Fun And Stylish
As we discussed in the introduction to this article, bean bags have a sense of fun about them that you don’t get from other pieces of furniture around your home. Throw a bean bag into a living room, and you immediately change the atmosphere. All of a sudden, the whole space takes on a different character.
This effect comes from our associations with them. When we see bean bags, it triggers something in our brains, and we immediately feel elevated. It happens almost automatically.
The range of styles of bean bags is also tremendous. They come in practically every colour and pattern you can imagine. And bean-filled seating options include upright, relaxing recliners and even versions that double up as beds.
Remember, you don’t have to stick with indoor bean bags. Waterproof varieties mean that you can stick them outdoors beside the pool if you don’t have room for them inside.
For Home And Office
Google made waves back in 2012 when it introduced bean bags to its head office. At the time, many traditional commentators wondered whether bosses had gone mad. Workspaces – as they saw it – were supposed to encourage formal seating positions that kept employees’ backs rigidly upright at all times, not somewhere people lounged around having hand-wavy philosophical discussions while drinking bulletproof coffee.
Google, though, had its reasons. Bean bags were part of a broader push to make work feel more like play. It was an element, like pool tables and polka dot walls, that was supposed to overcome the psychological hurdles to effort and energize people.
The tactic worked, and since then, the bean bag has become a staple of both the corporate and home office. Workers and managers both agree that a working environment feels like a fun place to be is better than in a grey office where all you’re doing is waiting to clock out. Slumping on a bean bag with a laptop on your stomach feels so much better than hunching over one while sitting on a swivel chair.
Okay, so now we’ve run through the advantages, what are the disadvantages of bean bags? What makes them less-than-ideal?
Can anything be too comfortable? Well, possibly.
We all know anecdotally that reclining on a comfortable bean bag makes us sleepy and relaxed. Thus when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of bean bags, it is essential to think about how they make us feel.
For years, researchers have wondered how sitting positions affect how hard people work. The thinking is that certain seating positions make us more productive than others. Research by Ohio State University found that when people sit upright, they get more done and feel happier. When our bodies are vertical, we are more likely to remember positive memories and associations than if we’re reclined or lying down.
Posture also changes our hormones. When you sit upright for long periods, you literally feel more powerful than if you are reclined. And that unconsciously conveys a sense of authority and power. Thus, when choosing bean bags for the office, you’re probably better off with varieties that keep your body and legs at right angles from each other. It could be your ticket to a promotion.
Not As Durable As Other Furniture
You’d like your bean bags to be as durable as other furniture in your home. Unfortunately, some bean bags are prone to ripping, causing their innards to spill out all over the floor.
The good news, though, is that you don’t always need to replace the entire item wholesale. Often, you can get away with merely repairing the rip by sewing it back up and refilling the bag with whatever fell out.
If you lost a lot of interior filler (or it needs replacing anyway), you could get your bean bag re-stuffed.
Difficult To Dispose Of
According to data from National Geographic, there are a staggering 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the world’s oceans – something which could irrevocably damage the world’s marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, many commercial bean bags contain expanded polystyrene balls – a type of plastic that experts believe takes around a millennium to break down naturally. So if you send your bean bags to the dump once when they reach the end of their life, there’s a good chance the plastic they contain will eventually make its way into the watercourse and out to sea.
To prevent this from happening, look for brands offering 100 per cent biodegradable filling. Failing that, ensure that the plastic in any product you buy is fully recyclable in your area.
It turns out that there is a range of alternative organic bean bag fillings available on the market. Beans are classic. Dried beans won’t go mouldy (so long as you keep them away from water), but they’ll also break down naturally in the ground. After all, they’re just plant material.
Another option is rice which has similar properties to beans, except the particle size is much smaller.
If you’re looking for something with a little bounce, you might also want to consider cedar shavings. Here, manufacturers remove the bark from the cedar tree and then chop it up finely before stuffing it into bags. It is naturally decay-resistant and will resist rot for up to forty years.
Other options include buckwheat hulls, hay and sawdust, all of which originate from plant matter.
Potentially Dangerous For Babies
Bean bags might seem like the perfect spot for babies to take a nap, but unfortunately, baby bean bags can be a hazard. Because of how bean bags deform under pressure, they pose a suffocation risk. Babies can become trapped in the contours of the bag, unable to change position or tilt their heads so that they can breathe.
Medical professionals recommend that young children always sleep on a firm surface. So if you have a bean bag in your house, keep it away from young infants at all times.
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Bean Bags: Wrapping Up
Bean bags chairs are a great addition to the average home. They’re great for pregnant women, work miraculously as swimming pool additions and are the perfect solution for backaches caused by improper posture. While they have various shortcomings, these are manageable. Often, it is just a matter of carefully choosing where and when you use your bean bag, combining it with traditional seating options.