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What Are Mamasan Chairs?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers

A mamasan chair is a wide, oval chair with a big cushion that is large enough for two people to sit on. It is also referred to as a double papasan chair, because it is the larger version of this type of bowl-shaped seating. The frame of a mamasan chair is usually made of rattan, wicker or bamboo, all of which have various benefits and colors. Most mamasan chairs' frames come with a cushion, and some even come with a matching ottoman, but both of these accessories can also be purchased separately. It is helpful to consider where a mamasan chair will go in the house before buying one, because the cushion and frame should match the décor of the room.

Many cushions meant for mamasan chairs are full of crushed poly fiber, which is typically made from recycled plastic. Thus, these types of chairs are usually considered environmentally friendly. The cushion's cover is often made of a combination of polyester and cotton, though chenille and microfiber may also be available. In addition, an all-weather cover is usually available so homeowners can lounge in the chair outside. In most cases, the cushion's cover cannot be thrown in the washing machine — it is often dry-clean only — though it is usually possible to spot-clean the cushion with a damp cloth.

Mamasan chair cushions are sometimes upholstered in chenille.
Mamasan chair cushions are sometimes upholstered in chenille.

Some mamasan chairs feature a bamboo frame, which is typically a light-colored material that provides a natural look. It is hollow inside, though, so it is not as strong as rattan, which is otherwise similar. Rattan frames tend to be more popular, because this type of vine is known for its strength and variety of colors. Some people prefer wicker furniture, which is woven out of rattan, bamboo or another material, providing a unique look. While the choice of frame is a personal preference, the highest quality mamasan chairs are typically made from rattan.

The frame of a mamsan chair can often be made of wicker.
The frame of a mamsan chair can often be made of wicker.

Mamasan chairs can be placed nearly anywhere in the home, even outdoors. Before buying a chair, however, consumers are advised to first take into consideration where they will place the chair, because both the frame and the cushion should match the rest of the room. Cushions often come in solid colors, but it is possible to buy covers that feature patterns. The sheer variety of cushion covers for mamasan chairs allows homeowners to either perfectly match their home's theme or frequently change the appearance of the chair. Homeowners should consider whether to get a matching ottoman for their chair, in which case they need to first make sure they have enough room for this comfortable combination.

Mamasan Chair Weight Limit

Homeowners who enjoy cuddling will delight in knowing that the mamasan chair can hold up to 500 pounds. That doubles the average weight limit of the papasan chair, which is only 250 pounds. Heavy individuals prefer the mamasan, as its design is more comfortable and can safely hold more weight.

Homeowners need to keep in mind that what materials are used and how the seat is manufactured are key factors in figuring out weight limits on a mamasan chair. Rattan and metal are the best options for weight-bearing and durability. While wood and bamboo are not bad choices either, they just do not hold as much and break easily with higher levels of pressure.

Mamasan chairs are some of the most comfortable seating options around. The cushion and snug feeling one will get from sitting in it cannot be beaten. While the chair does not have built-in lumbar support, pillows can be customized and personalized to the user's comfort level. Homeowners do need to consider that every manufacturer has different materials and quality of their products, so it does not hurt to check the product specifications for each chair's weight limit.

Difference Between Mamasan & Papasan Chair

Mamasan and papasan chairs are customarily built the same way, with the exception of size and shape. With the latter being smaller and designed for one, the former is bigger and more of an oval shape designed for two. Due to the shape and size of the frame of the mamasan, it is not as versatile as the papasan in terms of having a swivel base or rocking frame. Both chairs can be customized — from the materials of the base and cushion to the colors of the pillows. This allows the homeowner versatility and options for their home décor.

Since the papasan chair has a smaller base, it fits in tighter spaces and is easily moveable, which is perfect for a bedroom or dorm. Since the mamasan is larger, it does not have as much versatility in smaller areas. However, it looks great in an outdoor setting or bigger room such as a living room. The papasan chair can fit snuggly in a corner, while the oval shape of the mamasan makes it perfect to set against a wall or even in the middle of the room.

Why Is It Called a Mamasan Chair?

U.S. soldiers who were stationed in the Philippines during World War II had the honor of bestowing the terms papasan and mamasan to these furniture pieces. Soldiers brought them home to their families, making the chair's popularity skyrocket. Over time, the chairs were forgotten, and newer things came to be. They didn't make a reappearance until after the Vietnam War, when soldiers again brought the seats back into American homes.

While papasan is a Japanese honorific used for male elder or father and mamasan is for female elder or mother, the meaning is not the same when referencing these chairs. Papasan became slang for a pimp, and mamasan meant the madam of a brothel during the Vietnam War. These soldiers may have first encountered this type of chair in the country's red-light districts and thus dubbed them respectively.

While the origins of these chairs are not so lewd, they have been overshadowed by their newer history. Before the Americans brought this furniture home, the papasan chair was designed for the patriarch of the home, and families only had one per household. The Filipino people used this chair as a symbol of power in the home, which could also be why the soldiers dubbed it Papa-San.

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    • Mamasan chair cushions are sometimes upholstered in chenille.
      By: Stephen VanHorn
      Mamasan chair cushions are sometimes upholstered in chenille.
    • The frame of a mamsan chair can often be made of wicker.
      By: Andro
      The frame of a mamsan chair can often be made of wicker.