The University of Utah has eliminated the much-loved “womb chairs” from its library, partly due to fear that bed bugs, now eliminated from the library, might appear in them in future.
The photo above shows an Eero Saarinen-designed womb chair in a retail store window, though Ellen Forsyth’s image here of womb chairs in use at the Marriott library of the University of Utah suggests the ottoman was not part of the package.
According to the Daily Utah Chronicle, a student paper,
The new arrangements, which feature more tables and easier access to outlets, were made because the library staff believes it is a better study setup for students. As far as the bedbugs go, Godfrey said there is no denying they were involved in the chairs’ removal.
“We did have the problem with bedbugs, which was on the third floor where those chairs were, so we figured it was the perfect time to upgrade,” Godfrey said. Students, however, are not as keen on the new arrangements. Juno Kim, an undeclared freshman, wishes the chairs were still around.
“The chairs provide a sense of home to those who does not have access to one during the day,” Kim said, referring to the common practice of students napping in the chairs during schedule breaks. “I love those things. [They’re] comfortable!”
There’s no implication in the article that bed bugs were ever found in the womb chairs before their removal.
In fact, it might be argued that as far as upholstered seating goes, there are much worse options when it comes to hiding bed bugs, or for that matter, encouraging naps.
However, if the chairs did become infested, cleaning off fecal stains might be tricky, and even if these are knockoffs, they still fetch upwards of $1000 each. (Knoll branded Womb Chairs retail for $4000-$5000.)
We’re always interested when bed bugs affect the design of any space. This isn’t the first time a college has made such a decision. For example, back in 2009, San Diego State University removed its much loved “egg chairs” from the counseling center — in this case, after bed bugs were actually found in the chairs.
As always, the best idea is for employees to learn what to look for and regularly inspect potential hot spots like upholstered seating, especially in places with high traffic or turnover, like library seating and hotel room chairs.
Perhaps one of the experts here can tell us how feasible it would be to clean fecal stains off wool or leather chairs?
Or perhaps are there better upholstery fabric options, and carefully choosing fabrics is the way to go here…
Photo credit: DWR by Jeremy Noble (uberculture on flickr.com) used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.