Branch Saddle Chair in office

Key specs

  • Height: 21.2 to 31.5 in.
  • Seat dimensions: 16.9 x 14.2 in.; base diameter 19.7 in.
  • Weight: 9.9 lbs.
  • Capacity: 265 lbs.
  • Colors available: black, Dove, Pacific, Forest, Brick

The new Branch Saddle Chair is very different from anything you’ve tried, largely because it isn’t meant to be like other office chairs. The Saddle Chair is a low-profile stool with a unique profile that keeps you comfortable, encourages you to stand more and is easy to tuck under your desk when you don’t need it or when you’re ready to close up shop for the day. It’s designed to be easier to use with a standing desk (especially in a small home office) than a traditional bulky office chair, so you’ll actually get out of your seat and onto your feet and move regularly as part of your desk routine.

A low-profile chair with a unique design, the Saddle Chair works well with your standing desk to keep you comfortable when seated and keep your office uncluttered when you're on your feet.

What is the Saddle Chair?

If you’ve been using a standing desk at home or in your cubicle at work, you’ve probably noticed that your office chair — you know, the one you’ve been using since long before you got the standing desk — can really get in the way when you’re standing. And even the best office chairs are hard to integrate into a home office; even the most stylish models are really intended for office use, and they take up a lot of space after hours.

The Branch Saddle Chair's design — based on the myKolme Iloa chair — is markedly different from other seating you might encounter.

The Saddle Chair solves those problems. It’s small enough to tuck away under your elevated standing desk while you’re standing or at the end of the day, and it’s supportive enough that you’ll actually be able to use it when you’re seated — a problem with many stools, which simply aren’t comfortable enough to use for more than very short periods.

The idea isn’t new to Branch. The Saddle Chair is based on a design by the Finnish firm myKolme, and is based on the original myKolme Iloa chair. There are several chairs out there that use myKolme’s Iloa saddle-shaped design, with slight differences in materials and upholstery. The myKolme version — which isn’t easy to find in the US — is available in a wide range of variations, including a model with a backrest for longer-term use, but most of those have not filtered down to brands widely available in the US yet.

The Saddle Chair demands a higher seated position than most office chairs. Ideally your knees should be positioned well below your hips while your feet are flat on the floor. This means it's best suited to standing desk use, since for taller users, the additional height may not clear a standard desk.

Finding a good position with the Saddle Chair may not be immediately obvious. You’ll notice that despite the fact it has a taller maximum height than most of Branch’s traditional chairs, the Saddle Chair doesn’t have a footrest; despite the height, it isn’t meant to function as a traditional stool. The extra height is there because you’re meant to sit higher in a saddle chair than in a traditional chair, so your knees are below your hips with your feet flat on the floor.

You aren’t meant to sit on the Saddle Chair when your desk is elevated, or at a tall counter or table for all-day work sessions. Rather than use the Saddle Chair at maximum extension, to get the most out of it, you should be taking a break from sitting to work on your feet so you can realize the actual benefits of working at a standing desk.

What we liked about it

The Branch Saddle Chair is compact enough to tuck away under your standing desk so it doesn't get in your way (even if you're a product reviewer with a cluttered office).

We’ve been using the Saddle Chair for the past couple of months in a small home office, and it definitely delivers what it promises as part of a standing desk setup. It’s more comfortable than a standard stool, takes up significantly less space than a full-scale office chair and keeps you on your feet and actually using your standing desk — which frankly the bulk of the office chairs discourage, since there isn’t a great place to get it out of the way when not in use.

The seating position takes a little getting used to, but once we did it was absolutely more comfortable than a flat stool. The “saddle” contour means your knees should be positioned below your hips, as distinct from a standard chair that puts your thighs parallel to the floor

The elevated, knees-down position seems unusual, but we found it got us to adopt a better seated posture, largely by making it difficult to slouch. With our hips more open and your feet planted, we tended to keep our back straighter and our shoulders better squared to the desk. The thick upholstery (about 1 1/2 inches of padding) is very forgiving as well; we didn’t feel any pressure and had no trouble remaining seated as long as we thought was reasonable (generally for no more than a couple of hours at a time).

The Saddle Chair only offers vertical adjustment. As it's meant to be used in a specific position, there are no other controls, and the minimal frame keeps the overall weight down.

A side benefit of the low profile of the Saddle Chair is that it’s very easy to move around. Office chairs are typically heavy (the Branch Verve Chair — the company’s luxury office seating option — weighs 40 pounds, about standard for a well-built office model), but the Saddle Chair weighs less than 10 pounds, making it even easier to tuck away, carry from room to room if you want to use it for different tasks around the house or office or just shove under the desk or into a corner at the end of the day. It’s surprisingly refreshing to be able to pick up an office chair one-handed to move it or tuck it away.

What we don’t like about it

Depending on how tall you are, since the Saddle Chair puts you in a higher position than a standard chair, it may not work well with a standard 28- to 30-inch-high desk. For best comfort with our 5-foot, 10-inch tall tester, we ended up setting a desk height of more than 34 inches for the seated position on our standing desk setup. So keep in mind that the Saddle Chair may lead to a wholesale office remodel and be prepared to budget accordingly for a new standing desk.

That said — and this is more a note on usage than a criticism of the chair itself — when we did neglect to stand (it happens!) for more than a couple of hours, we found that the Saddle Chair got uncomfortable. While the saddle shape puts you in a better-aligned position than many backless chairs, without a backrest, the support isn’t there to maintain a comfortable seated position through a long day (depending, obviously, on your personal fitness and physiology). If you forget to move, you may find yourself stiff or achy — which, of course, you can consider a reminder to stand or move, but be aware.

Seen from the side, the Saddle Chair's unique design is more obvious. The saddle-like wings open up your hips and support your thighs, putting your back in a better-aligned position than a flat stool, which can encourage you to slouch.

Lastly, the Saddle Chair is pretty pricey for what is, when it comes down to it, a stool. That said, since the design is not a Branch original, you can shop around to find the best deal. You can find myKolme Iloa chairs through retailers who do ship to the US (typically only in a limited range of colors, though in some styles not currently offered by US brands, such as the backrest-sporting myKolme Smile chair). And other US direct-to-consumer companies, such as Fully, offer their own variations. The Fully Iloa Saddle Chair is substantially similar, with a segmented upholstery design and a different choice of colors. Ordinarily it’s a bit pricier than the Branch Saddle Chair, but it’s occasionally on sale for much less.

Bottom line

If you’re currently using or interested in using a standing desk in tight quarters (such as your average home office) and you’ve struggled to find a seating solution, the Saddle Chair makes a whole lot of sense. So long as you take care to set it up properly and use it as part of an active sit/stand regimen during your workday, it can really help you stay less sedentary and keep your space tidy and organized.