I’ve reviewed a lot of different things over the last few years but I’ve never thought of stools as something that can be reviewed. Stools are simple. They have 3 or 4 legs. They might or might not have a back and come in different heights.
Except when they’re Hokki stools. I’ve reviewed active chairs in the past and was introduced to Hokki’s as active stools. Hokki’s are very distinctive. They are stools with a single central column coming from a weighted, curved base and topped with a frilled sitting lid. Do you remember Weebles growing up? They Weeble and they wobble but they don’t fall down! Hokki’s are similar – they spin, wobble and you find yourself moving the whole time but as I discovered they can fall down.
Stools are usually solid and unmoving and I’m sure we all remember being told off as kids for rocking. Hokki’s turn this on its head. The stool is balanced on an upside down dome which means that you are constantly in motion and moving back and forth. Because it only touches the ground at a single point you have to spend some attention – consciously at first then subconsciously – to keep yourself balanced.
After a few minutes sitting on one I realised something. I had completely without thinking about it put myself in a near perfect ergonomic sitting position with my feet firmly on the floor and my back straight and head held high. I tried the same thing with other people and once people had gotten over the initial spinning, rocking and moving they tended to put themselves in a near ideal position without any intervention. In a product aimed at children this is especially good as anything that can be positive habit forming has to be a plus.
Hokki are designed for indoor use but are made of a tough plastic with a softer plastic base. They are made to get heavy use with as little maintenance as possible. After a month of trying them in as many circumstances as possible – including outdoors – they have no marks, scratches or damage of any type.
I did not expect something as inherently wobbly as the Hokki to stack well but was surprised to find that it did. Place it seat down and it is rock stable and put the next stool on top, again seat down and the slightly concave seat fits perfectly onto the base of the first seat. Hokki’s marketing material shows the next step and the use for those frills – hanging the correct way up stools between two stacks of upside down Hokki’s. It’s a solution to storage that looks odd and unstable but somehow it works.
As an experiment I tried stacking the two Hokki’s we’ve had to review in the middle of our hallway. I wanted to see how long it took for them to get knocked over. Twenty four hours later they had been knocked into a number of times but never actually fell over before they got removed for just being too annoying to go around. In a larger setting with a number of Hokki’s they would stack against a wall when not in use very well.
About VS Furniture
VS Furniture is a German company that specialises in producing and supplying furniture for offices and educational spaces. They are the largest supplier of educational furniture in Europe. VS has been making furniture for over a hundred years and has a wide range of chairs, tables, room dividers, storage systems and similar.
VS’s environmental policy is exhaustive. To quote “VS sets challenging ecological standards. Production is determined continually from the point of view of the environment – from product development to the choice of beech wood from areas of reforestation, to environment-friendly processing and finishing of wood and steel components right down to the use of reusable packaging materials and recycling concepts for disused products. In addition, we design our energy consumption as efficiently as possible, optimize the use of raw materials and prefer to use renewable energies.” They follow this with information about the standards they meet, their sustainable energy usage, recycling, disability policies and social programs. More here.
Included in the box
In the box is one Hokki Stool.
Seat Height: Five heights – 310, 380, 460, 510 and 620mm
Seat Width: 300mm across
Colors: Dark red, dark blue, light blue, white, orange, light green, green, black and grey
Material: Thermoplastic base with polypropylene body
Hokki Stolls are aimed at educational settings and primarily primary schools. They are bright, tough and measured to fit well for small children with a larger version for the teachers and teacher assistants. We’ve also tried them around the house with some success – at the dining table and as occasional chairs. I’ve tried using one as a desk chair and was less successful – at least in part because the stools I had were too low for my desk. Their final aimed market is offices in waiting areas, meeting rooms, break rooms. We found that being able to move made us feel more creative and when doing things like brainstorming they stopped my normal pacing about and let me sit and move instead.
Ease of use
It’s a stool. You sit on it. For most people it’s very straightforward to use.
The hidden stacking ability is not obvious initially but once shown is easy to do.
Very little maintence is required beyond an occasional wipe with a wet cloth.
It is accessible to anyone with a moderate – severe visual impairment, including the blind and those who experience visual symptoms, like photophobia (light sensitivity), eye strain or colour blindness. The stools are as accessible as almost any seating could be with a combination of bright colours, no forward so it can be sat on any way and no corners to stub your toes on.
It is accessible to anyone with a moderate – severe hearing impairment, including the deaf and those who experience auditory symptoms, like tinnitus or hyperacusis (sound sensitivity). The Hokki have no auditory aspect at all and are equally as accessible for those with full hearing or no hearing.
There is one notable exception to this to consider. Get a room of kids on normal chairs and there will be a background noise of scrapes, bumps and movements. The Hokki’s make no noise even if the seated person moves quite a lot so the room can actually be quiet.
Input and touch
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate upper body impairment and those who experience symptoms that affect their hands, wrists and shoulders, like a tremor, fatigue, reduced dexterity or precision.
The stools are light to move and the frills provide a good grip to hold on to. They can even be rolled to get them from place to place. The frills prevent run-away rolling but controlled rolling is still possible. Another feature that came up in our testing is how much safer they are to move for children than regular chairs. Imagine a child picking up a chair and moving it. The chances are that child has picked it up and now has 4 legs sticking out in front of them. Now multiply this to 30 children moving chairs at once and the potential for an accident is quite high. The soft blunt base of the Hokki sidesteps this completely.
Movement and mobility
It is accessible to anyone with a mild mobility impairment. The Hokki needs a certain amount of balance to sit comfortably and securely. The combination of no back and domed base encourages good positioning but does not actually provide any support. This makes them very difficult to use for wheelchair users or anyone without good upper and lower body support.
Motion sickness and balance disorders
It is accessible to anyone who experiences a mild sickness or dizzy spells. We found using the Hokki’s was beneficial to those with mild motion sickness as they got to experience controlled and gentle movement but that if you experienced lots of dizziness that the movement could make it worse and in more extreme cases it was possible to fall over.
It is accessible to anyone with a moderate – severe cognitive impairment, including those with a learning disability like dyslexia and those who experience cognitive symptoms, like problems with memory, concentration, planning and organization. The stools are deliberately simple, bright and friendly and their ability to encourage their passengers to move is a real bonus for those with several conditions like autism where gentle motion helps with concentration and relaxation.
No social interaction is needed to sit on a Hokki but they are designed and work best in educational environments where there are usually a larger number of children.
This product is made out of polypropylene which is not a common allergen.
The Hokki stools are an odd product. Furniture needs traditionally to be stable and strong and while the Hokki’s are strong they are not stable. Active sitting might be a difficult concept for adults to really grasp but kids do it naturally and the Hokki fits perfectly in to this. Around the home the stool’s don’t quite fit perfectly although they could work as chairs in children’s rooms, occasional garden chairs or dining chair but in schools they fit perfectly. The traditional chair for a school is plastic, not very ergonomic, designed to stack easily and easily breakable. The Hokki’s might have a slightly higher upfront cost but they are far more ergonomic and flexible, stack almost as well and are fairly indestructible. In offices and commercial environments they promote movement and creativitiy – I can see them working very well for a breakout room or when brainstorming and their design would work very well in waiting rooms. Overall – highly recommended.
The review is based on the two Hokki stools kindly provided by VS Furniture