Defying Gravity with Ergonomic Twists on the Office Chair

Ergo Depot explores intriguing new versions of the everyday seat.

By Randy Gragg January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Gravity Balans ($2,195) “Rather than making you adjust for the chair, the chair moves with you,” Kahl says of Ergo Depot’s striking answer to the recliner, Norwegian-designed and gravity-balanced for four different positions.

David Kahl is an evangelist for getting you out of your seat. At Ergo Depot, he imports and manufactures office furniture made for standing, kneeling, and leaning, all of it crafted with the warmth and simplicity of an Alvar Aalto stool. 

Kahl’s globe-hopping career began at Price Waterhouse as a CPA. But after watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 and helping his parents with their New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, he recalls asking himself: “What value am I adding to the world?” A love of design matched with his own experience sitting at desks offered a simple inspiration. “I’d like to improve one person’s life at a time,” he says, “by transforming their relationship to working and sitting.”

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HAG Capisco Puls (left, $696.50) Ergo Depot’s top seller features pneumatic height adjustability for a half-sit, half-stand chair. Blending style with elements of a saddle but the support of a backrest, it’s lumbar supportive and 95 percent recyclable. Salli Swing (right, $1,020) “Ergonomists point out that horseback riders can ride dawn to dusk, and the body isn’t fatigued,” says Kahl. Tilt adjustments allow a forward lean that relaxes the shoulders, and the pelvis can move forward for a natural spine position.

Image: Amy Martin

In 2005, he started Ergo Depot in New Orleans, importing and selling European ergonomic furniture with nothing but a website. In 2006, he went shopping for new cities. “I flew into Portland,” he says, “and it immediately felt right. Progressive but comfortable, and easy to have a real conversation.” Ergo Depot now distributes from a warehouse on Swan Island, and in November Kahl moved his showroom from N Mississippi to the Central Eastside. Last year, he also opened a retail store in San Francisco’s Design District. 

Given American markets’ narrow selection of ergonomic furniture and the exotic look of some Ergo Depot items, the company offers an incentive: for every piece sold, Kahl will match a customer’s donation to any nonprofit up to $75. “I’m a CPA, so I want us to be around a long time,” says Kahl. “I want to make money, but I want the focus to be on touching people’s live and giving back to the community.”

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