Eames Lounge Chair is the armchair born from the love of its designers and their commitment to design. An elegant Haussmannian flat in the centre of Paris, a mountain cabin, a villa overlooking the Caribbean sea or a modern New York open space. Any of these interiors could be the perfect stage for the Lounge Chair. We are talking about the armchair par excellence, which has been part of the collective imagination from its creation in 1956 to the present day. The Lounge Chair is introduced, in common parlance, by the name Eames, inherited from its parents. The design couple, Charles and Ray Eames, created this armchair with ottoman inspired by the “old English club chair”.
- Charles and Ray Eames
- The birth of Eames Lounge Chair
- The collaboration between Vitra and the Eames family
- Evolution of Eames Lounge Chair
Charles and Ray Eames
Charles Eames was born in Saint Louis in 1907 and was introduced to architecture while studying at Washington University. He did some architecture in the United States, but a trip to Mexico allowed him to form his aesthetic taste and technique. He set up his own practice with Robert Walsh and the design of the Meyer House in 1938 got him noticed and he was awarded a contract at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. One of his students was Bernice Kaiser (nicknamed Ray), born in Sacramento in 1912, a talented painter with an eye for design, founder of the AAA-American Abstract Artists group.
Charles and Ray’s marriage was not only sentimental but also working. They began their experiments with bent plywood for prostheses and medical equipment and eventually with upholstered seating. Experiments that reached their zenith with Lounge Chair & Ottoman.
Their collaboration lasted for forty years, during which they not only embarked on design projects, but also on important buildings, exhibitions, films, graphic works and extensive photographic material.
Eames’ in-depth studies, based on the combination of quality and diversity, had a profound influence on the concept of design and consequently on the evolution of the designer’s role.
The birth of Eames Lounge Chair
The couple’s main experimentation was with ergonomics, the most comfortable they could achieve. Each product had to respond to a certain need, as the Evans put it: “design could be described as a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best suit a particular purpose”.
For the armchair, they started from the idea of comfort and rest that such an allegorical object should have. Organically shaped shells covered with padded cushions in which to sink. Charles Eames, supported by the idea from the world of sport, described the cushions of the Lounge Chair as having “the warm and cosy appearance of a used baseball glove”.
The Eames Lounge Chair not only represents the highest level of comfort, but also the highest level of material quality and craftsmanship. In fact, it requires no less than 47 production steps, most of them under skilled craftsmanship, that make this chair still so successful after sixty-five years. Each of its components is made of a specific material and to perform a specific function: metal to strengthen the structure; wood to follow the human anatomy of the shell shape; padded leather for the comfort of the seat. The study was so thorough that Vitra continues to produce the Eames Lounge Chair today using practically the same manufacturing techniques as then.
For the first time Eames Lounge Chair appeared in public was in 1956 on the television show Home show, hosted by Arlene Francis, and was then marketed through a television advertising campaign. The first prototype was given by Charles and Ray Eames to their friend and director Billy Wilder.
The collaboration between Vitra and Mr and Mrs Eames
It began in1957, the year after mass production of the Lounge Chair began, produced in the United States by Herman Miller. For the launch in Europe and the Middle East, Charles and Ray Eames redesigned the base of the chair. They give a more balanced form, which still distinguishes it from the American variant. After half a century, the Eames Lounge Chair continues to be produced at Vitra’s headquarters in Weil am Rhein under the same direction as its designers, but with some variations. The chair can be upholstered with different types of leather, wooden shells and bases or, alternatively, in white or black with matching details.
The evolution of Eames Lounge Chair
Over the course of these six decades, the Eames Lounge Chair has undergone a number of improvements and updates. Made by Charles and Ray Eames themselves, who created various versions of the Lounge Chair. Vitra continues the designers’ philosophy, now offering the chair in new sizes, in addition to the original one. Suffice it to say that over the years the average human stature has risen, making the size of the Eames Lounge Chair unsuitable for taller users. This approximately 10 cm difference in height baptised a new, larger version, which Vitra created in close collaboration with the Eames Office. The collaboration also made it possible to introduce leather in 15 different color combinations. This make Eames Lounge Chair suitable for any type of interior matching the wood and the support legs.
Despite the fact that the chair is only known for its leather upholstery, it was initially produced with fabric variants, but these were only produced for a short period of time and there are only a few hard-to-find examples Vitra has continued the production of the Eames’ furniture from 1957 to the present day, with the same determination and research passed on by the designers.
This collaboration has also positively influenced the company’s future projects Given the extraordinary success of the Eames Lounge Chair, Vitra is opening the doors to the Lounge Chair Atelier, which allows customers to follow the final stages of the chair’s production. It also provides the possibility of the choice of materials, through to the longevity and sustainability of the product. This unusual choice tells us how much the Eames Lounge Chair is still a pure and authentic design element today, and how much curiosity it arouses, to the point of following its assembly phases.
Today Vitra and the Eames family work together to preserve and enhance the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames, pursuing the same goals and ideals. This allows the user to enjoy the design experience created by the designers.
Thanks to its functional perfection and obsessive attention to detail, the Eames Lounge Chair has earned a place of honour among the classics of the 20th century, so much so that it has become part of the permanent collection of the MoMA in New York and other important museums around the world.