Nine years ago, Herman Miller's Aeron irrevocably raised the standard of office chairs -- what was once utilitarian was transformed into a cult status symbol and style icon. Fusing design with function and comfort with cool, it earned a place in New York's Museum of Modern Art (it's also a Trivial Pursuit answer). Studies commissioned by Herman Miller and Steelcase have found ergonomic chairs, which mimic the body's movement and support natural sitting positions, more comfortable (a happy byproduct: productivity is increased as users can sit for longer periods of time). But not only do we want chairs that feel good -- they ought to look good, too. Here are a few options.
For the Europhile: Sleek and modern, the Rolling Frame features a continuous polyester mesh seat and back (it also comes in black leather) that is contoured to the body and provides ventilation. This chair seems made for movement -- little wonder that Italian designer Alberto Meda once worked for automaker Alfa Romeo. $980; www.aliasdesign.it; 877-254-2788
Highbrow design, lowbrow price tag: Funky and functional, the Maui appeals to the design-conscious and cost-conscious set. Its seat with aluminum frame rests on a swivel pedestal base that can be adjusted for height. $311; www.conran.com; 866-755-9079
Feel like a star: Allsteel's high-performance office seating gets its name from the chair's 18 major components plus the human being who's sitting in it. A tilt mechanism causes the seat to rise slightly when the chair reclines, and a lumbar system supports the back. No detail was spared; these include a patented ventilated seat that keeps the body cool and casters custom-designed to glide on any flooring surface. Last year, Oscar presenters like Julia Roberts and the Coen brothers received a #19 in what must have been extra large goodie bags. $1,350; www.allsteeloffice.com; 888-255-7833
The next generation Aeron: Designed by Studio 7.5 Berlin, Herman Miller's just-launched ergonomic chair was four years in development. It was worth the wait. While you control the seat depth and the angles to keep ankles, knees, and hips comfortable, the back adjusts automatically to ease pressure on the spine. The only thing left to decide is finish (two options) and color (8 - 10 options). $640; www.hermanmiller.com; 888-443-4357
The ultimate indulgence: Steelcase invested more than $35 million, 27 scientists, and 47 patents into designing the ergonomic Leap Chair. The company has one-upped itself by combining utility and innovation with the comfort of a recliner. Toss in a separate ottoman that converts to a worktable and -- the piÃ¨ce de rÃ© sistance -- upholster in buttery Coach leather. $3,600, ottoman $900; www.steelcase.com; 800-333-9939
The anti-office office chair: Produced by Vitra and designed by Philippe Starck, the mod Hula Hoop befits a casual work place that puts a premium on freedom of movement and fun (a violet office chair, anyone?). The satellite dish form pivots forward and backward and swivels 360 degrees. $595; www.dwr.com; 800-944-2233