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Hans Wegner’s Papa Bear, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona, and Le Corbusier’s Grand Confort are up there on the list of iconic chair designs. But there is another one that deserves to make the cut: the director’s chair. First introduced in 1892 at the Chicago World’s Fair, the utilitarian piece, known for its paddle-shaped armrests, stretched canvas seat, and crisscross legs, has become ubiquitous with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Actor-director Bryce Dallas Howard and fellow director Claire Thomas (she’s also an interior designer and cofounder of Sweet Laurel Bakery) have sat in plenty of traditional director’s chairs, but when the friends actually began talking about what it’s like directing a film and sitting in one all day long—particularly while pregnant—they realized there’s a big problem. “They’re simply not made for different body sizes,” says Howard. “So we started to fantasize what our dream chair would look like: one with wider seats and arms, natural fabrics and materials, and a chic reed saddlebag for scripts, notebooks, or a laptop.”

Photography courtesy of Claire Thomas
Photography courtesy of Claire Thomas

The pair teamed up with Johanna Vente Anderson and Fiona Bronte Burr, founders of Saffron + Poe, to bring their shared vision to life with a capsule collection of 50 chairs. The pieces are available in an oatmeal- and taupe-colored canvas with a teak frame and retail for $595, with earnings going toward Free the Work, a nonprofit organization committed to making equity actionable in media. 

camp chair

Director’s Chair (oatmeal), Saffron + Poe ($595)

Another perk? They designed matching folding stools for $155, which have proved to be supehandy. “I’ll use it when I need a chair but space won’t allow it, like when I’m doing my daughter’s hair,” says Howard. “It also turns [the set] into a recliner of sorts. I’ve taken many naps this way.” Both items are weatherproof, so in addition to putting them in her home office, Howard has them in her backyard. “I ‘road tested’ the pieces myself—poured red wine on them, banged them around—and the durability was incredible,” shares Thomas, who suggests gathering the seats around a firepit, card table, or swimming pool.

With her backyard seating set, we asked Howard to share a few more of her outdoor entertaining essentials for this coming spring. 

Photography courtesy of Claire Thomas

My Outdoor Party Playlist Includes…

“Special” by Lizzo, featuring SZA. Also, Apple Music has this amazing ’80s Hits Essentials playlist that makes every millennial want to sing along, guaranteed.

What I Serve the Crowd to Win Them Over…

The Sweet Laurel chai tea is also delicious. I brew it in a giant mason jar with honey and half-and-half, and whenever I serve it to others, they beg for the details. 

When the Sun Sets, I Bring Out the…

Infrared patio heater. I love my backyard as an alternate work and meal space, but my internal body temperature has a tendency to run cold, so a strong heater has become the perfect solution to enjoying the outdoors at any time of year.

What I’m Watching…

A screening night is a special way to be together without the pressure of needing to entertain one another. Forgive the shameless plug, but up next on the Howard Family Watch List: Season three of The Mandalorian