Why you shouldn’t buy a SteelCase Gesture Office Chair

The SteelCase Gesture office chair is a well-reviewed office chair from a premier manufacturer, found in the best offices and recommended by the WireCutters, recommenders of many fine goods. It’s also quite a pricey investment. Having purchased and used one, and noticing that too many reviews gloss over what I consider to be disqualifying defects, I’m adapting my comments elsewhere to a long-form post to explain why you really should not purchase this chair. It has low-quality, deeply confusing, minimally-adjustable controls, and appears meant for some committee’s platonic idea of how people might sit, but can’t. The buried lede: you cannot sit upright in this chair.

I suspect different people look for different qualities in desk chairs, but look carefully at the extremely limited adjustability of the Gesture (read the literature/watch the video first, it makes clear how little you can change) and the lack of good lower back support.This chair may be for you, but without reviewing the controls and trying one for real, it’s a bad bet.

I wasn’t able to find someplace to try it before buying, relying only on reviews, and that turned out to be a mistake. I found that, at least in my location, the SteelCase website calling them retailers was deceptive. They are, as one might expect, office supply resellers that have a phone number (and usually not even a website), and are not in the business of giving appointments to people not buying an office full of furniture. Had I thought ahead, I might have laundered the request through my employer to get an audience. The few promising ones were actively hostile to any attempt at a demo.

I had the Ikea Markus before switching to the SteelCase Gesture (in leather, with a headrest), and I have to say, it was a huge downgrade. The Gesture provides virtually no back support (particularly in the lower back) and is strangely enough *less* adjustable than the Ikea.

Don’t get me wrong — the Gesture has adjustments. It’s just that, aside from the adjustable arms, they’re ineffectual or minor. Your garden-variety office store chair is FAR more adjustable than the Gesture, and if I had to guess, it’s because the designers assumed they knew best. But my lower back is totally unsupported by it, and the headrest is too far back to me of much use, even with adjustments. The plastic controls are also chintzy, and turn endlessly without changing much. For some bodies, it may be an improvement on the Markus, especially if the arms are an issue. But it’s just not in some other category of comfort/adjustability. Here’s a video of the adjustability of the Gesture.

I think if I’d seen the video before buying the chair, I would have been put off of it by that alone. But again, every person is going to be different in what they want to get out of a chair like this.

Without doing a detailed sort of review, I’d say that the rear retaining pressure is the fatal flaw in this chair. It is near-useless and has at most 2 concrete settings. Even at its highest setting, you can still go a long distance back when you lean back. You cannot sit upright in this chair. The fact that the WireCutter reviewers lauded this chair for its back support makes me think they have spines that allow them to work 15° inclined indefinitely. Also, had I watched this review, I would have noticed that the reviewer catches this as a negative and shows it off effectively as a major demerit against the chair.

I’m comfortable saying the obvious here: the Markus supports your back in a straight posture, the Gesture does not, and it cannot.

The seat pan movement is a cute gimmick, and unlike the others, it has quite a range of movement. But it has never helped me sit more comfortably in the chair.

The up/down action is acceptable, but barely so. A Staples chair goes further and is less jerky. The headrest looks like the best part of the thing (particularly on a chair with no adjustable back height mechanism, which is really criminal), except it has 2 settings — crush your chin and past the range of your resting head. I cannot bring my head into contact with that headrest without looking like an opera singer on their last aria.

Since I wrote a lot of this in various comment posts on the chair, I’ve settled more strongly into my opinion that the SteelCase Gesture is a poorly-adjustable and uncomfortable chair with low-quality controls that leave one’s lower back totally unsupported. There really are no redeeming qualities to this chair given the price and the presumption of excellence from a company that designs chairs. Unless you’ve found someone who will let you sit in it, you simply should not be buying this.