Papasan chairs are comprised of a thick, round cushion, a dish-like cushion frame and short pedestal base. The frame and pedestal usually are made of rattan, but sometimes are constructed from wood or wicker. The cushion is thick, covered in a sturdy fabric and stuffed with cotton. Papasans first were made in the 1950s, but saw their greatest success in the 1970s.
At first glance, you might think papasans were designed purely for novelty and they couldn't be comfortable, but they are relaxing for many people. The large, circular cushion fits a curled-up position, and it is thick enough that the frame doesn't poke through to cause discomfort. The size of the cushion accommodates people of most sizes, unlike some chairs that may not be comfortable for larger people. A double papsan, also called a mamasan, is twice as wide.
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The base of the papasan is comprised of a large circle on the floor and a smaller circle at the top, connected by a series of vertical supports. The circles are open -- a design that allows you to shift the position of the frame and cushion. If you want to sit up, the frame should be pushed back so that it sits off-center in the base. Those who prefer to curl up in a ball on the cushion may position the frame centered on the base for total support on all sides. The cushion and frame are two separate pieces, which means the cushion may be pulled off the frame and used as a floor cushion or extra bed.
Although the frame of a papasan chair may be positioned, the stability of the chair may be compromised as a result. When you have the papasan frame positioned for sitting, it provides excellent support as long as you don't move much. Twisting or leaning to the side could throw off the balance, making the frame tip off the base. If you position the frame so it is centered on the base, the chair is very stable as long as you can get in it. You must climb into the chair, but since the edges are raised all around, it can be difficult to position yourself without spilling onto the floor.
When you sit in a papasan chair, you essentially are sitting on a nest with your bottom in the cavity of the frame and your legs hanging over the edge. Many people's feet might not touch the ground. When you sit with your bottom so much lower than your legs and your feet don't touch the ground, standing up can prove to be quite a task. You have to rely on your hands to push off the frame, but pushing too much on one side could throw the frame off balance.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.