Things Go Better With Coke

If you think you’ve seen this chair before, you have. Emeco’s Navy Chair has been around since 1944. So why was it such a sensation at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair in April? And why is Design Within Reach hosting events to tout that it has the retail exclusive on the product? It’s because this 21st century model is made from recycled plastic Coke bottles – 111 of them, more or less, hence its name the 111 Navy Chair.

A collaboration of Coca-Cola and Emeco, the 111 Navy Chair comes in six contemporary colors (Red, Snow, Grass Green, Persimmon, Charcoal, and Flint Gray), developed by color/finish expert Laura Guido-Clark, and a scratch-resistant “velvet” finish. The chairs, which contain a mix of 60% rPET plastic, pigment and glass fiber for strength, is backed by a five-year structural guarantee.

That guarantee isn’t as long as the original 1006 Navy Chair but long enough. During World War II, the U.S. Navy commissioned Emeco (Electric Machine and Equipment Company) in Hanover, Pennsylvania, to come up with a chair that could withstand torpedo blasts to the side of a destroyer. Emeco created the aluminum 1006 Navy Chair, produced using a process that made it three times harder than steel. To demonstrate its durability, Emeco’s CEO at the time threw one out of a sixth-floor window at a Chicago furniture show to prove that it exceeded even Navy specifications. It survived with just a few scratches.

The 111 Navy Chair isn’t meant for naval combat, but it is meant to protect the planet. Coke and Emeco expect to recycle more than three million plastic bottles a year in the making of the chairs.