Eames Lounge Chair

If ever there was a chair that entices you to sit down and relax, it is the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Designed by the husband and wife design team, Charles and Ray Eames, and launched into production in 1956, the chair instantly became synonymous with luxury and style.

Lily Wright Category Curator
Last update: 25 April 2018
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History

The history of the chair and ottoman dates back to the late 1940’s, when Charles and Ray Eames took up the challenge of redesigning the 19th century concept of the English armchair.  The Eames chair was designed as a fresh, modern take on comfortable, ponderous armchairs found in the elite gentlemen’s clubs. Charles Eames once said he wanted to create a chair that had “the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt.” The chair was supposed to be very welcoming and extremely comfortable, yet classy and light looking. The Eames Lounge Chair first came into the limelight on the Arlene Francis Home show, which was  broadcasted on the NBC television network in 1956. It was an instant success.
The chair was inspired by and produced for the couple’s friend, Billy Wilder, the famous Hollywood director of Sunset Blvd., Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.
The Herman Miller furniture company noticed the potential of the chair and ottoman and began its commercial production several years later.
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Design

The form of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, although clean and modern, is not entirely minimalistic. Its appearance is particularly well depicted by Ray Eames herself, who wrote in a letter to her husband that “the chair looked comfortable and un-designy". The form of the chair, with its famous curves, has earned recognition around the world and has been praised by design critics. In fact, it became part of the permanent collections at New York's Museum of Modern Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago. However, this masterpiece of interior design is not exclusively for display. It is still produced and commercially available today.
The chair’s shell is made from bent plywood that curves around the person sitting in it, giving the chair its famous cozy, intimate feel and provides “a special refuge from the strains of modern living”. The plywood used for production consists of seven layers. Dry plywood sheets are sandwiched, in an alternating pattern, together with the glue covered ones. Crossing the wood grains during the stacking process provides additional strength. Layered sheets are then press molded into the desired shape. The shell is finished with a thin veneer layer. Originally, Brazilian rosewood was used to achieve this sheen, but in the early 1990s it was replaced with more sustainable alternatives. Customers can choose from cherry, walnut and Palisander rosewood. While only the Palisander rosewood has a similar grain pattern to the original Brazilian versions, the chair come in many other finishes as well. The shell is divided into three main segments: a sitting pan, a back support and a head support. The sections are connected together by steel couplings. The rubber shock mounts, yet another item on the couple’s inventions list, are placed between the couplings and the shell, which allow the chair to adapt to the user’s position. The high level of comfort can be attributed to the high-density urethane foam, which is then covered in supple, high-quality leather. Two buttons in each segment provide tufting to the upholstered pieces, giving the chair its cushy appeal. The chair leans slightly backwards, hinting at its comfortable, relaxing feel. It stands on a five-leg base and swivels at the whim of its owner. In order to reach the absolute heights of comfort and relaxation, customers can combine the Eames Lounge Chair with the matching Eames Ottoman. Produced utilizing the same materials and processes, the Ottoman is a perfect supplement to the chair.
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Interesting facts

  • The design of the chair and ottoman comes from a period when Charles and Ray Eames were experimenting with new types of materials and manufacturing processes. Along with the LCW (Lounge Chair Wood), the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were among the first pieces of furniture incorporating molded plywood to such extent, setting new standards in furniture design and manufacturing for decades to come.

  • The chair’s relationship with television did not end with its 1956 debut at the Home Show. The chair and ottoman are perhaps among the most iconic set pieces of the James Bond movie franchise. So far they have appeared in three motion pictures starring the famous British lothario: You Only Live Twice, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale. The pair can also be seen in a multitude of other cinematic productions, including: Iron Man 2, Gossip Girl, Closer and Frazier.

  • Charles Eames and a friend, Eero Saarinen, entered a prototype Eames Lounge Chair in the 1940 New York Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition. 

  • Although the original chair and ottoman were available only in one colour combination, black leather and lacquer coated rosewood veneer, today customers can choose from a wide range of leathers, fabrics and wood in order to create their personalized variation of this modern design classic.

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