The Louis Ghost Chair: A Modern Balance of Design, Elegance and Function

In the design world, it can take decades for a piece to become iconic: Not so for Philippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chair. In little more than a decade, it has become a design staple, with more more than 1.5 million of them sold.

Ghost chairs for dininng areaView in gallery
Perfect for any decor, the Ghost chairs in this contemporary home highlight the table base rather than hide it.  It also mixes well with other chairs, such as these modern white bar stools.
In this transitional dining room, the gnarled wood of the table base is the star, and the Ghost chairs allow you to see and appreciate the handsome piece from all angles.View in gallery
In this transitional dining room, the gnarled wood of the table base is the star, and the Ghost chairs allow you to see and appreciate the handsome piece from all angles.
The invisible nature of the chairs makes them a perfect item to mix with existing seating.  Here, the addition of black end chairs would overwhelm the room, but the ghost chairs add seating without disturbing the balance.View in gallery
The invisible nature of the chairs makes them a perfect item to mix with existing seating.  Here, the addition of black end chairs would overwhelm the room, but the ghost chairs add seating without disturbing the balance.

Originally designed for the Kong restaurant in Paris in 2002, Starck’s Louis Ghost chair is special in so many ways. Why a “ghost chair”? The innovative design manages to mimic the statelier pieces of the neoclassic Louis XVI period in the sleek, modern form of a plastic chair. As The New York Times reported, “It makes Louis XV modern; it stacks to save storage space; and it sells for $198.” Even though the paper got the price wrong, they nailed the reasons for the chair’s appeal.

Open space dining room with ghost chairsView in gallery
The commanding set of doors open to the deck is definitely the focal point of this dining area. The translucent elegance of the clear Ghost chairs allows for an unobstructed view and enhances the ethereal feeling of letting the outdoors in.
Eeames tulip table and ghost chairView in gallery
The Ghost chair in this craftsman living room practically disappears, allowing the dramatic wallpaper to dominate the space. Combined with the tulip table, it keeps the space simple.
Sunburst lighting syste over the dining tableView in gallery
Ghost chairs highlight the clean lines of this white and bright kitchen, and are the perfect airy counterpoint to the heavy tabletop.

According to modernmom.com, the sophisticated new “neoclassical” look emerged in the period of about 1774 to 1792, replacing the heavy baroque chairs of Louis XIV’s era as well as some of the more rococo pieces of Louis the XV’s time. And while an original neoclassical chair would fit into almost any type of décor, the Ghost chair does so as well, with more utility.

Sleek and smooth dining area design with iconic furnitureView in gallery
The ghost-like qualities of the chairs work for this sleek and smooth modern dining room done in pale neutrals.
This stunner of a room is the perfect place for Ghost chairs, whose most noteworthy quality could be their ability to be invisible.View in gallery
This stunner of a room is the perfect place for Ghost chairs, whose most noteworthy quality could be their ability to be invisible.
Thoroughly modern and exciting, the chairs in this room allow the artwork to be the focal point.View in gallery
Thoroughly modern and exciting, the chairs in this room allow the artwork to be the focal point.

The clear plastic of Starck’s design can lighten up a crowded space and make a small room appear larger. It’s also appropriate for outdoor as well as indoor use. The durable yet delicate, stackable chair has been a favorite of design aficionados since it launched.

In small spaces, ghost chairs can open up a room rather than make it seem more cluttered.View in gallery
In small spaces, ghost chairs can open up a room rather than make it seem more cluttered.
Here, rather than complete with the eclectic mix of upholstery fabrics, the ghost chairs highlight the patterns and colors.View in gallery
Here, rather than complete with the eclectic mix of upholstery fabrics, the ghost chairs highlight the patterns and colors.
Whether indoors, outdoors or in a covered space in between, Ghost chairs are appropriate. Durable, easy to clean and stackable, you can be ready for guests at a moment's notice.View in gallery
Whether indoors, outdoors or in a covered space in between, Ghost chairs are appropriate. Durable, easy to clean and stackable, you can be ready for guests at a moment’s notice.

The Ghost chair is also special because of the material and construction: It has no joints, bindings or hardware. It’s more than just another plastic chair. As flavorwire.com explains it, the piece is made by injecting polycarbonate plastic into a mold. Polycarbonate is a plastic that can be recycled. Kartell, the Italian design house that produces the chair says that this design is shock, scratch and weather resistant as well. Even if the sleek finish of the piece gets marred, the manufacturer sells products that can help remedy nicks or blemishes.

While wood is the major design element in this contemporary dining room, the Ghost chairs fit in, allowing the wood of the wall, fireplace and table to shine.View in gallery
While wood is the major design element in this contemporary dining room, the Ghost chairs fit in, allowing the wood of the wall, fireplace and table to shine.
Unadorned wood cabinetry in this warm and functional kitchen is complemented by the ghost chairs, which don't compete with the decor.View in gallery
Unadorned wood cabinetry in this warm and functional kitchen is complemented by the ghost chairs, which don’t compete with the decor.
Thoroughly modern elements play up the cutting edge nature of the Ghost chairs.  Here the homeowner has added brightly colored chair pads as an accent.View in gallery
Thoroughly modern elements play up the cutting edge nature of the Ghost chairs.  Here the homeowner has added brightly colored chair pads as an accent.

While the original was made of clear plastic, it is now available in a wide range of opaque colors — crystal, smoke, yellow, sunset orange, crystal green and ice blue. People who want to make more of a statement can buy more substantial-looking versions in glossy black or white.

Contemporary and country?  Yes! The unconventional mix of decor is the perfect foil for Ghost chairs.View in gallery
Contemporary and country?  Yes! The unconventional mix of decor is the perfect foil for Ghost chairs.
A bit of farmhouse and a bit of modern, this eclectic kitchen uses ghost chairs to tie the various dining elements together.View in gallery
A bit of farmhouse and a bit of modern, this eclectic kitchen uses ghost chairs to tie the various dining elements together.
Glamorous and elegant, this kitchen and dining area is highlighted by the Ghost chairs, which have been enhanced with neutral chair pads.View in gallery
Glamorous and elegant, this kitchen and dining area is highlighted by the Ghost chairs, which have been enhanced with neutral chair pads.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Starck, born in 1949, was the designer behind the iconic Ghost chair. His innate and fun designs have turned many ordinary items into modern favorites. According to Katrtell Los Angeles, Starck was greatly inspired by his father, an aircraft designer.  Growing up with his father’s drawing boards and hands-on projects, Starck continued his design aspirations and studied in Paris, where he remained. Starck became known for his taste and style and has become one of today’s most famous and prolific designers.

Not just for dining rooms and kitchens, a Ghost chair can elevate any part of your home. In this modern bath vanity area, the chair lets the unusual mirror take center stage.View in gallery
Not just for dining rooms and kitchens, a Ghost chair can elevate any part of your home. In this modern bath vanity area, the chair lets the unusual mirror take center stage.
Mimicking the transparency of the glass shower, the ghost chair in this bathroom fits right in with the modern design.View in gallery
Mimicking the transparency of the glass shower, the ghost chair in this bathroom fits right in with the modern design.
The lovely colored textiles and clean lines of the built-in shelving in this girl's bedroom remain the focus, thanks to the unobtrusive ghost chair.View in gallery
The lovely colored textiles and clean lines of the built-in shelving in this girl’s bedroom remain the focus, thanks to the unobtrusive ghost chair.

Starck began designing for Kartell in the 80s and 90s.  The merger of the company’s desire to develop eco-friendly, contemporary plastic furniture with Starck’s style has evolved into beautiful partnership. The creation of the Louis Ghost chair led to an entire Ghost Collection that includes the Uncle Jack Sofa, Uncle Jim Armchair, Victoria Ghost Chair, LouLou Ghost Chair (for children), La Marie Chair, Charles Ghost Stool, Francois Ghost Mirror, One More Stool that has a rounded back, the One More Please Stool with a square back, Ghost Buster Commode and, Invisible Table.

In a minimalist kitchen like this one, ghost chairs and stools are the perfect choice.View in gallery
In a minimalist kitchen like this one, ghost chairs and stools are the perfect choice.
Light and airy, the clear chair in this bedroom does not compete with the view through the beautiful window.View in gallery
Light and airy, the clear chair in this bedroom does not compete with the view through the beautiful window.
High ceilings, big windows and lots of light -- the perfect setting for the Ghost chair, which enhances the airy feeling.View in gallery
High ceilings, big windows and lots of light — the perfect setting for the Ghost chair, which enhances the airy feeling.

Starck’s creativity and approach to work is singular. In an interview with Achica Magazine, Starck described his process:

Every August I go to my house in Formentera, which I have had for 46 years. There is a gate and on the gate is a sign that says: ‘No visit without appointment’. When I am there I am working, working, working, night and day with my wife and it’s very boring for her. I work alone for 8-10 hours a day especially from June to the middle of September and everything is done during this time. This is my period of creativity.

Strong design often includes plenty of white space, which this living space certainly has. The understated quality of the Ghost chair plays up the openness of the area.View in gallery
Strong design often includes plenty of white space, which this living space certainly has. The understated quality of the Ghost chair plays up the openness of the area.
Red kitchen design whit ghost chairs for diningView in gallery
When big, bold color dominates a rom like this kitchen, anything other than Ghost chairs could be too much for the space.
A modern dining table calls for modern seating, and the the chameleon-like nature of the ghost chair matchless.View in gallery
A modern dining table calls for modern seating, and the the chameleon-like nature of the ghost chair matchless.

Starck also described his idea of beauty:

For me the idea of beauty does not have a clear meaning. I do not know what beautiful is. For me beautiful is just a sticker. I think the real way to understand whether something is beautiful or not is to understand the balance of the parameters. When you understand the balance of the parameters this is called harmony.

Such a stunning bathroom should not be cluttered with a bulky piece. The Ghost chair provides understated seating as elegant as the rest of the space.View in gallery
Such a stunning bathroom should not be cluttered with a bulky piece. The Ghost chair provides understated seating as elegant as the rest of the space.
Perfect for eclectic spaces where the mix of styles and accessories take center stage, Ghost chairs keep a room from seeming overstuffeView in gallery
Perfect for eclectic spaces where the mix of styles and accessories take center stage, Ghost chairs keep a room from seeming overstuffed
When the outdoors become the focus of the indoors, as they do in this lakeside dining room, the clear seating only enhances the view.View in gallery
When the outdoors become the focus of the indoors, as they do in this lakeside dining room, the clear seating only enhances the view.

With the Ghost Chair, Starck struck a phenomenal balance: elegance, modernity, beauty and function.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24.