Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman – Museum Pieces in the Home

Charles and Ray Eames were a dynamic couple who created such unique designs using innovative production methods that do this day, their creations are oft imitated though seldom equaled. It is not often that a piece of furniture enters the language lexicon such as the Eames chair has. The mere mention of the name evokes a mental image of the chair for many people all over the word.

eames lounge chairThe lounge chair was originally designed to combine great comfort and visual aesthetics using higher end materials with a high-quality finish. The design is quite simple using molded plywood for the base and backrest. The arms of the chair are incorporated into the base shell. The leather upholstery, for which it is said that Charles Eames’ intent was to create a supple seat that was inviting and “soft like a well-used baseball glove” is the most important feature for comfort and aesthetics.

Charles Eames and his wife, Ray, come from different backgrounds that somehow came together to create one of the most important design team of the 20th Century. In 1907, Charles was born in St. Louis, Missouri where he eventually attended Washington University. He only attended school for 2 years before leaving over controversy regarding his respect and admiration for Frank Lloyd Wright, who was quite controversial at the time for his modernist architectural designs. Charles would continue to express his interest and attraction to modernism and minimalism later when he attended Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. He and Ray would meet there and marry, and then relocate to Los Angeles, California to begin their iconic design career together.

Ray Eames was born in Sacramento, California. Her birth name was Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser. She was born in 1912. When she met Charles at Cranbrook Academy, she was a student and he was an instructor. Although the designs are usually identified as being Charles’ creations, Ray had a very strong role in their work together.

herman miller lounge chair and ottomanThe Eames lounge chair and ottoman was designed using a molding method that bent and shaped the plywood back and seat in standard shapes for larger productions. The pedestal base with the star base was a significant design element of the chair. The chair was made more comfortable for the user with its rubber-metal shock mounts.

They wanted to create a chair that was comfortable enough to use every day, but was aesthetically attractive for high-end interior design in homes. The plywood backing and base has a cherry wood or black lacquered veneer for those aesthetic reasons. They also designed a matching ottoman.

The plywood molding process was not something they came up with on a whim; rather it was a process of trial and error as they worked with Herman Miller to create furniture with him. They created various different molded chairs and other furniture that made it possible for them to eventually create their most famous design. This design that is still sought after by furniture collectors who are willing to pay a considerable amount of money to own a chair that has been displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

The Eames had a mission when they started up together. Not only did they want to have a life of love and happiness together, but they wanted to share their love of design with the world. They both had an eye for simple design that mimicked the simplicity of nature in that there are no straight lines or corners in nature. Nature expresses itself in curves and motion. There furniture expressed itself in the same way. When asked what they wanted to accomplish with their creations they would respond that they wanted to created lean and modern furniture that was playful and practical. If you have ever experienced an Eames chair, the curves are a joy to see and the chairs are certainly comfortable to sit so they accomplished their mission.

The original chairs are found occasionally in estate sales and shockingly in flea markets where the seller may not actually realize what they have on their hands. If you look in online auction and bidding sites, you will see that Eames lounge chairs still fetch a high price and they go very quickly to the highest bidder.

Two well-known companies produce this comfortable lounge chair – Herman Miller and Vitra. Herman Miller is famous for their line of office furniture particularly the Aeron chair.  Vitra is a company located in Germany that also manufactures of the Eames Lounge Chair. Both use the methods created by Charles and Ray and they still use the same materials to make them. The chairs still fetch quite a price as well. The key thing here is that the chairs are authentic to the design specs and quality materials set by the Eames. There are imitators out there who will sell knock offs at comparatively lower prices. Some of those imitations are created honestly as homages to the original design and they make sure buyers know they use different manufacturing processes and materials. Honesty pays off out of respect for the memory of the Eames.

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