I really like Branch's Verve chair. In fact, in using it as my main home office chair for around three months, I've grown fond of it. Not because it's perfect (is it even possible to be fond of something that's perfect?) I like it because the Verve has bags of personality – in the gorgeous range of colour options; in the many design details that you can enjoy each time you look at it; even in its idiosyncratic shortcomings.
As soon as I got the Verve chair in, I realised it was a prime candidate for inclusion in my list of the best office chairs for back pain, such is its stellar lumbar support and overall comfort. It also became apparent that amongst that list of 11 contemporary office chairs, the Verve stood out as one of the few to exude life, to be fun. A lot of office chair design still swears by black and chrome. The Verve is different. It brings a little, well, verve to modern office chairs – a refreshing proposition for anyone wanting to build a personalised home office with style.
Design & aesthetics
I think the Verve's style translates pretty well from photographs, so I'll let you be the judge on whether you think it looks good. Personally I love the look of this chair. The blocked blue (Cobalt) that mine came in will fit a heavily curated home office, but it fits in just fine with my cobbled together set up too. And the way Branch have sustained the chair's colour over metal, foam and plastic will definitely be popular with designers and creatives in general.
Take a look at the chair's other colour options. From Coral to Mint, there are some really exciting colours to chose from. And even the more traditional office colours are fun – the two grey options (best-colour-of-all-time-who's-with-me?!) exude icy, airy cool and grown-up sophistication respectively. Safe to say I'm a fan of this type of colouring in chairs.
The Verve also gets the curves and lines right in its design. A good test for this is to move around a chair – sit down, take your eye-line to the floor, stand up and tower over it, and look at it from outside the room. As I type this, I realise I may sound a little insane, but actually what you get, with great chair design, is an interesting view no matter what viewing angle you take. Satisfying curves, purposely-placed handles and levers in harmony with the seat and arms. The block colouring also accentuates this harmony, which is clever.
I also like the look of the arms (more on what I don't like about them below). Their back angles; the rounder base that morphs into a flatter top; the seamless change of plastic to foam on the rest – it's all very elegant and sleek. These measured lines are also present in the framing back spine that holds the lumbar support, and continues into the top of the back support in one continuous sweep. Really classy stuff.
Comfort & build
The Verve is comfortable to sit on. I like the materials: plastic melding with brushed metal, sitting alongside its '3D knit (100% polyester)' seat and back material. There isn't loads of range in the adjustability of the lumbar support, but that's fine, as it's not needed. I asked a few friends of different heights to test out moving the support until it suited them, and all of them found a height that was comfortable for them.
The recline is also great. Branch has nailed the tension of the back recline, so that I'm able to click the recline lever, but I can also happily put weight back and still sit fairly upright – not just fly back. I like this to get a little bit of subtle movement going when I'm at my desk for several hours at a time.
Now let's get to the main issue I have with the Verve chair – and for the asking price (below), it's kind of a big one. The arm rests!
For some reason the otherwise-exceptional designers of the Verve decided to implement a multi-notch height adjustment mechanism to the arms. You lift the arm a bit, it clicks up a notch, it remains at that new height. Go 10 notches up, and the arms automatically get lowered to the bottom height.
I have a few problems with this. First off, there is no consistent way to move each arm to the same height every time. The action just isn't that smooth. Next, the ideal height for me just so happens to be dangerously close to that 10th notch, and so each time I adjust them, I invariably start a maddening dance of moving each arm rest up only to hit 10 and - swoosh - all the way down again. And repeat.
Pedantic? Possibly. But this chair is so good in every other area – and is one of of my favourite-looking chairs of all time - that I feel this adds up to a massive misstep. There's no doubt that this is a premium product, so to have this armrest fail annoys me.
Second moan – the adjustable height range of the chair itself is narrow. For me, that's not a big deal, as the maximum height just so happens to be ideal (I'm 5 '10). Anyone with longer legs may not be able to get the height that they want, however.
Delivery & assembly
The Verve comes in a big box, and has around six main parts to assemble, plus feet coasters and screws. It's easy to put together with crystal clear instructions, and when finished, I found it lighter than many other premium chairs, so carrying it upstairs by myself to my home office was a doddle.
One peeve: why-oh-why did Branch add all those stickers on the bottom of the seat? Give me a sticker, I will always try and peel it off. It's just in my DNA. And said sticker - if not of the easy-peel variety, will tear and leave a mess. A mess that, if I'm honest, I haven't thought twice about until writing this review. But a mess nonetheless! This is such a a small criticism, that I'm not factoring it in my scoring (that missing star is purely due to the art rest). But if there are any anally retentives like me out there, be warned!
Price & verdict
The Verve retails at $549, which is slightly above a lot of the middle level office chairs that generally hover around the $300-$400 mark. It is considerably lower than the premium chairs, such as the Herman Millers and X-Chairs, which will cost you over a grand. In context of all the office chairs that I've reviewed over the years, I'd say that the Verve is well worth the price... as soon as they fix the arm rest adjustability issues!
If that do that, this is an exceptional chair in all ways – from looks to functionality. And all for under $600? Presuming that you'd be buying this to be your main office chair for ever more, that's a bargain.
As it stands, it's still a fantastic chair. And honestly, I wasn't thinking about the arm rest all the time I used the Verve over the last three months. But Branch has set the bar high for themselves, offering a near-perfect office chair aimed squarely at creatives and people who love good design. Maybe they'll totally nail it in the Verve's second iteration.