But the bean bag chair has more of a high-concept history than you might know from just watching That ‘70s Show. It was first developed, possibly by accident, by Italian designers in 1969. They were working on developing a chair for the Flower Power generation, which the beanbag eventually became, with its casual, egalitarian approach to lounging positions. The rumour goes like this: the manufacturing plant they were working in used to throw out waste polystyrene in oversized bags, and one day someone just sat on one.
The pear shape is the original, built for the full-body experience. Reclining on it takes a bit of skill, as the pear point should recline with you, eventually catching your neck and supporting it.
There are many other types, but I elected for the pear shape after coming uncertainly upon a small alley house at 200/14 Hoanh Hoa Tham, Binh Thanh (goixop.com). In the narrow front room, the seamstress slept on some bags tumbling from a ceiling-high stack. A sewing machine sat in the corner next to the fabric samples, and my friend and I sat on one bean bag after another, trying to visualise the leopard skin-type covers in a more modest beige. Despite limited Vietnamese, I managed to get a black leather bag and a grey one of smart, grained material delivered to my door the next day for VND1.45 million.
Close by you’ll find Omely Bean Bag (12/58B Dao Duy Anh, Phu Nhuan, omelybeanbag.com), a larger operation, but one without the coveted pear-shaped model. And if you’re looking for some Doraemon or perhaps Crazy Birds-inspired bags, look no further than Ms. Ha’s house — Vao Nha Toi literally translates to ‘in my house’ — at 260/5 Nguyen Thai Binh, Tan Binh (vaonhatoi.com). She has some classy leather items as well, and prices at all three shops are competitive.
Despite the reservations of a more sophisticated roommate, the bean bags have been working quite well in our sparse living arrangement, which formerly had people pulling over kitchen chairs to join the couch sitters. Maybe it’s not the answer, but it sure makes sitting more comfortable. — Ed Weinberg