The history of the Eames Chair must start with Charles and Ray Eames and their partnership with the Herman Miller Furniture Company. The chair was released in 1956 with the official name Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671). The chair was the first one designed by the Eameses for the high-end market and has become one of the most famous chair designs ever created.
The exact reasons why the Eames Chair design became such a powerful and lasting design throughout the years are hard to pinpoint. However, as with all fine art, whether it be music, sculpture, painting, or design, there is something within the pieces that resonates with the viewers of the time and it continues to resonate throughout the ages. The Eames Chair has this je ne sais quoi. Now, the design is admired and desired for more than just its artistry, but also for its place in modern design history.
An Introduction to Charles and Ray Eames
Let’s step back from the chair for a moment to look deeper into the two people who created it. This husband and wife team created many stylish designs to be mass-produced at an affordable price. Their goal was to bring a fine interior design option to the average consumer in America.
However, the Eames Chair was something new for the talented duo. In fact, when the chair debuted on the Arlene Francis Home Show in 1956, it was described as “quite a departure” compared to their earlier designs.
At first, the Eames Chair was just a concept and a project taken on by the design team. They wanted to create a high-end, luxury chair. It needed to be stylish, chic, modern, and, most of all, comfortable. Charles and Ray Eames wanted the design to make the user feel as snug as if they were a baseball in a worn leather mitt.
Since the design couple was well-versed in mass-production pieces, they worked with both plastic and plywood when designing this chair. Both of these materials are common today, but in the 1950s, the Eameses were some of the first designers to use plywood and plastic in their designs.
Three pieces of molded plywood were used to create the Eames Chair: a base, a separate headrest, and a backrest. All three pieces were also covered in a rosewood veneer with later versions using walnut, cherry, and other finishes. Black or brown leather cushions were used to complete the design and a matching ottoman completed the set.
Herman Miller Company sold the Eames Lounge Chair and it hit the market for the first time in 1956. This modern, stylish, and functional chair offered a beautiful look at a high-end furniture piece using plywood in a new way. It quickly rose in popularity and is one of the first chairs to be mass produced at a luxury price point.
The Eames Chair has become so popular it has been featured in many ways throughout the years. The TV show Frasier featured the chair and ottoman in the apartment of Frasier Crane. It’s referred to in the show as “the best-engineered chair in the world.”
Shark Tank, another TV show, replaced all the chairs on set with Eames Lounge Chairs after eight seasons. They wanted to create a more modern-looking set.
A version of the historic Eames Chair has also been featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Many mid-century modern homes also feature the Eames Chair and it’s a very popular choice for many celebrities choosing MCM as their design style.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eames Chair in 2006, Herman Miller released new models of the chair using a sustainable Palisander rosewood veneer. The chair is still in production today and remains one of the most influential furniture designs in American history.