The word classic is bandied about rather too often these days. When it comes to furniture, though, Eames can rightly claim to have been putting out classic designs for decades. Their legacy endures to this day.
Born in the early twentieth century, Charles Eames and his wife Ray were American designers with a penchant for industrial design and modern architecture.
We’ll take a look first at the molded plywood chair that kickstarted a new aesthetic in furniture.
After that, we’ll glance briefly at 4 other unique Eames chairs.
1) Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Source: Wallace Sacks
In the late 1940s, the Charles Eames and his wife would often visit their Hollywood friend Bill Wilder on set.
The renowned director enjoyed some downtime between takes. He used to mock himself up a lounge set and happily snooze away.
The Eames’s drew inspiration from this makeshift set-up and the seed was planted for the classic chair and footrest that still flies off shelves worldwide.
The couple already had plenty of experience working with plywood. They had significant success molding it so it could be used by the US Navy in WWII. Experiments with plywood continued after the war.
While today, these striking curves are seared into our consciousness, back then there was nothing quite like these smooth plywood lines. These designs really made a statement.
The much-quote vision Charles Eames had for this chair was a chair with “the warm, receptive look of a well-used baseman’s mitt.”
That conjures up quite an image. How, then, did Eames go about recreating this vision of comfort?
The Lounge Chair is covered in leather. The base is aluminum. The chair itself is made of 3 curved pieces of plywood (backrest, headrest and seat).
From the start of production in 1956 on through to the 90s, there were 5 layers of this plywood with a veneer of Brazilian rosewood. Near the end of the century, rosewood was sidelined. The current incarnation of the chair has 7 layers. The veneer finishes are walnut, cherry and Palisander rosewood.
These layers are glued and then shaped using a combination of heat and pressure.
Charles and Ray Eames wanted to roll out affordable furniture that could easily be mass produced. With the Lounge Chair, they veered away from this ethos. Inspiration, as well as from seeing Wilder in action, was the highly traditional English Club Chair.
From these beginnings, the chair finally rolled into production at the Herman Miller factory in 1956. First featured on the Arlene Francis Home Show in that same year, the striking lounge set stood out in a sea of sparse, minimalist furniture. It reeked of comfort without seeming overdesigned.
Today, the classic is part of the Museum of Modern Art’s Permanent Collection.
2. Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW)
Source: GR Shop
The LCW predates the lounge set.
Eames rolled out yet another prize-winning design. Time magazine recently pronounced this chair the greatest design of the 20th century. That’s quite some accolade.
Charles Eames had designed curved plywood splints for the USAF. This ability to work plywood effectively led to the Lounge Chair Wood being born in 1945.
This was the very first plywood chair offered by Eames.
Rather than continuing to pursue a single-shell chair, Eames changed his approach. Plywood splits if you bend it too much. 2 pieces of plywood are joined by a plywood spine.
Rubber washers called shock mounts give the backrest a little flexibility. While this adds to the individual nature of the chair, these mounts giving way can cause you to topple quite nastily to the floor. Watch out for the weak point if you invest in one of these ergonomic chairs.
3. La Chaise
With La Chaise, Eames rolled out the equivalent of a concept car made real.
The MoMA held a competition in 1948 for low-cost furniture design. Charles and Ray Eames entered La Chaise.
The couple had taken inspiration from The Floating Figure. This was a sculpture from Gaston Lachaise.
Source: Stardust Modern
2 fiberglass shells are bonded together. The base is chrome and the feet are made from oak. The design allows you to sit or lounge back in a number of positions.
Ironically, given the competition in question, La Chaise was never sold during the lifetime of the Eames couple. It was too expensive to produce. In a final twist, the Armchair which they also entered won a prize. It was then rolled out in fiberglass to great fanfare.
La Chaise did not see production until 1996. Vitra International continues to exclusively sell this genuine design classic. It’s certainly not cheap but the best things in life rarely are.
4. Eames DSR
The DSR is another of the many legacies we enjoy from Charles and Ray Eames.
Here is how the initials are broken down:
- Dining: height
- Side: chair
- Rod: base
In the MoMA competition mentioned above, the fiberglass chair won a prize. The DSR is a modern interpretation of that same chair. It was the first plastic chair manufactured industrially.
The polypropylene seat shell comes in several configurations. You can take it with no upholstery, with just a seat pad or fully upholstered. With a wide range of colors and a choice of piping, there’s plenty of scope for customizing your DSR.
The distinctive base led to the DSR being known as the Eiffel chair.
There are now a series of these chairs based on that fiberglass original. As well as the polypropylene version featured here, you’ve got several other options…
- DSW: Wooden base
- DAW: Armchair with wooden base
- DAR: Armchair with rode base
- RAR: Rocking armchair with rod base
There really is something for everyone with this series of Eames chairs.
5. Wire Chair
We’ll round out this look at Eames chairs with the Wire Chair.
Designed in 1951, this chair appears to be a case of form over function.
It certainly makes statement, though. Whether it’s for a downtown loft or a country estate, this chair will always find its own market.
The Wire Chair really is an icon of modern furniture design.
We trust you’ve enjoyed this look at these Eames chairs.
True classics never fade away. These modernist and experimental designs still look fresh today and show no signs of losing popularity.
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