On September 20, 2017, the Michigan-based company Comfort Research set a new Guinness World Record for building the world’s biggest bean bag chair. The extreme bean bag chair industry is a fast moving one; the previous record was less than two years old.
Comfort Research’s record-breaking chair measured over 29 feet long and weighed over 4,000 pounds. Assembly of the bean bag chair took a team of 30 people two days. Comfort Research debuted the chair during the annual ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Record-Breaking Beanbag Chairs: A Brief History
Guinness uses the volume of a beanbag chair as the metric in determining whether it has broken the existing world record. The chair from Comfort Research — dubbed “Big Joe’s World’s Largest Beanbag Chair” — measured about 150 cubic meters in volume. That’s significantly larger than the previous record-setting large beanbag chair. The UK company Valliant Group UK LTD. set the previous record with a beanbag chair measuring 53.29 cubic meters in volume. Before Valliant Group held the record, the record-holding large beanbag chair measured 35 cubic meters. Yogibo — a New Hampshire company — built that record-setting chair in 2015. At the present rate of growth, the next record-setting chair might take up an entire football field!
What Is ArtPrize?
ArtPrize is a yearly art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The competition regularly draws more than 500,000 attendees, making it one of the most popular art exhibitions in the world. Artists from around the globe compete for more than $500,000 in prize money. The two grand prizes are worth $200,000 each. Members of the public choose the winner of one prize by voting. Art experts select the other winner. ArtPrize is an important part of the economic development of Grand Rapids. During the competition, works of art fill local stores, theaters, hotels, restaurants and museums. Ran Ortner — an artist from Brooklyn — won the first ArtPrize award of $250,000 in 2009. His entry was a large oil painting called “Open Water No. 24.”
What Is Comfort Research?
Comfort Research is a company founded by two men — Chip George and Matt Jung — who met as students at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. The two invented their first product — the Fuf chair — while looking for a way to revitalize an old beanbag chair in their dorm room. They found a stock of old foam mattress pads, shredded the pads with a wood chipper and stuffed the beanbag chair with the shredded foam. They found their refurbished chair so comfortable that they began to sell foam-stuffed chairs to college students around Michigan. They eventually struck a deal to distribute their products through local supermarket chain Meijer. The deal catapulted the company to rapid growth.
How Are Beanbag Chairs Made?
Although making a large beanbag chair may seem like a simple process, it’s actually quite a feat of engineering to create a plastic-filled bag capable of supporting an adult’s weight without collapsing or bursting. The process begins when the manufacturer of the chair receives the outer chair material from its supplier. Leather and fabric beanbag chairs are both common. The manufacturer inspects the material for defects and uses precision tools to cut out the panels of the beanbag chair. Although the classic round shape is still the most popular form factor for beanbag chairs, you can also find couches and other form factors large and durable enough for multiple people.
After the manufacturer cuts the material into panels, it’s time to sew the panels together. The manufacturer may use a durable cotton thread or nylon when assembling the beanbag chair. Since the chair needs to hold the weight of at least one adult without splitting open, the manufacturer uses double- or triple-stitching to reinforce all seams. The manufacturer completes the beanbag chair by adding a zipper. In many areas, consumer protection laws require beanbag chair manufacturers to install childproof zippers in their products because the polystyrene foam filling is a choking and suffocation hazard. A childproof zipper remains locked in place unless the owner inserts a tool to unlock it.
The most popular filling for beanbags is polystyrene beads. Polystyrene beads begin as small, hard pellets. Bombarding the pellets with steam causes the air within them to expand. After a few minutes, the pellets expand to about 30 times their original size. Polystyrene beads are popular for use in beanbag chairs because they’re light and durable. A beanbag chair stuffed with polystyrene beads can hold an adult’s weight — but it’s also extremely light and easy to move. A beanbag chair is the ideal piece of lounge furniture for a dorm room. Beanbag chairs tolerate plenty of abuse. When it’s time to pack things up and go home at the end of the year, though, tossing a beanbag chair into the trunk of a car isn’t a problem.