furniture: chairs

Chairs. Seating. This is what the famous West Coast husband and wife design team of Ray and Charles Eames are best known for. From Charles' earliest chair designing efforts with Eero Saarinen for the 1940 Organic Design competition at MOMA, Ray and Charles continued for almost half a century designing some of America's most ubiquitous and beautiful seating. Theirs were new, comfortable and lightweight modern looking chairs, designed at low cost to both the consumer and the manufacturer

The plywood chairs, experimental in nature when they were first introduced in 1945, had progressed to the development of the unique and now much copied, one-piece fiberglass shell seating. Looking within California or across the nation, one can easily see the influences the Eameses and their choice of materials were having on the design communities. For awhile other manufactures and designers including George Nelson, turned to molded plywood to produce some of their designs for consumers willing to have their postwar goods made from inexpensive plywood as America was rebuilding after WW2.

As the rebuilding of postwar America got under way and the domestic landscape was furnished with their designs, the Eameses turned to supplying the corporate world with well-designed furniture.

Now even more aware of the needs of consumers and having unlimited access to new materials, the Eameses set about to bring style and comfort to all phases of seating and influencing America's designers along the way...

--Steven Cabella

Plywood Chair: LCW
(lounge chair wood legs)

In manufacturing, the assembly of the chair was accomplished through the use of aircraft industry inspired shock mounts mounted on the reverse of the seat and back. Attached to the wood with glue and cured by radio waves, these rubber shock mounts provided a flexible answer to the problem of connecting the wood elements together to form a chair. Later the same rubber connectors would prove to be the answer to attaching the new fiberglass shells to a variety of newly designed bases. Originally made of molded walnut plywood and sealed with a clear plastic coating of melamine, the molded plywood line of seating and tables were thought to have the possibilities of being casual indoor and outdoor furniture. While not entirely successful as year-round outdoor furniture, the outdoor survival problem lead to the need for the development of the fiberglass line of seating.

Plywood Chair: DCW
(dining chair wood legs)

While others, like Swedish designer AlvarAalto, had employed bent and laminated plywood in their modern furniture designs ten years earlier, it was the Eameses who had come up with a way to successfully create sculptural and organic compound curves in their plywood design elements. The success of Ray Eames' plywood sculptures quickly morphed itself into the popular plywood chair.

First manufactured by the Evans Plywood Company in 1946 and later by the Herman Miller Company of Zeeland Michigan, the Eames' all plywood chair quickly earned the nickname "the potato chip chair" for it's organic looking plywood seat and back.

Plywood Chair: LCM
(lounge chair metal legs)

Chairs were first offered with a plywood frame but were quickly followed by the design of a more linear metal rod base. This lightweight base was offered with the modern office landscape in mind--big business would soon become a major user of Eames' furniture. Faster than the home front had been able to, corporate environment's needs accelerated the demands for more well designed chairs and office-friendly furniture.

Plywood Chair: DCM
(dining chair metal legs)

These first production chairs, designed in the early years of Eames' chair experimentation contained many different connection attempts. Whether it was metal fronted shock mounts or wrap-around welds, the Eameses constantly researched and developed the best suitable connection methods which resulted in a well designed and long lasting product.

Two-Piece Plastic Chair

This dining chair consisted of the frame of the DCM (1946) and the plastic seat and back designed by the staff of Century Plastics (formerly Zenith Plastics). The Two-Piece Plastic Chair maintained the elegant proportions of the DCM, but the rubber shock mounts of the DCM were replaced by two protrusions molded to the polyester upholstered panels of the back and seat.

Plastic Armchair: DAW, PAW
(dining height armchair wood base)
(pivot armchair wood base)

PAW: This is also the plastic armchair manufactured by Zenith. The steel rods support the wood legs ("dowel legs") with a swivel. As this wonderful model illustrates, Charles was particularly skillful at combining different kinds of materials. Because the wood legs break easily, very few of these Plastic Armchairs remain in complete and good condition.

Plastic Armchair: DAR, LAX
(dining height armchair r-wire base)
(lounge height armchair x-base)

The chair bases were made of metal rods that were resistance-welded for stability. Like most of the Eames' furniture, the bases aquired funny descriptive names from consumers, names like cat's cradle, X-base, and the Eiffel Tower. The Eames' fiberglass chairs were eventually offered with over two-dozen different bases that rocked, swiveled, rolled, adjusted, or just "sat" there.

Some of the Various Chair Bases

Plastic Armchair: LAR, RAR
(lounge height armchair r-wire base)
(rocking armchair r-wire base)

RAR: This plastic armchair on a rocker-base comprised of wood rockers and steel rod legs was manufactured by Zenith. This model is rare, for it was only produced during the first year of the Eames rocker-based chairs, and subsequent models had a slightly different rod configuration. The rocker version of the Plastic Armchair was produced for commercial sale until 1968. Until 1984, Herman Miller gave this chair as a gift to everyone of his employees who became a parent.

Plastic Armchair: PAC, DAT
(pivot armchair on cast base)
(dining height armchair tilt swivel base)

DAT: Manufactured by Herman Miller, the height of this armchair can be adjusted by a tilting unit located under the shell. The base with full swiveling casters is common to all Eames chairs designed for office use. The die-cast aluminum foot pieces are characteristic of the works after the Aluminum Group (1958). The rather Spartan design of this base has a very different charm from the earlier chairs.

Plastic Side Chair: DSR, DSG, LSR, DSS-TA

(dining height side chair r-wire base)
(dining height side chair wall guard base)
(lounge height side chair r-wire base)
(dining height side chair stacking table base)
In 1950, the Eameses developed the first model of the "armless" side shell chair manufactured by Zenith Plastics, makers of the earlier bucket shell chair.

Bases available for this side chair were rod-legged, cast aluminum pedestal, swivel, wire strut which is known as the "Eiffel-tower" base, wood-legged, or wood rockers on wire struts. The later production model of this chair had a lighter seat and new H-base leg configuration. It also used the sturdy first generation self-leveling glides for the new, hollow leg configuration. The shells themselves have not changed their sculptural shape in over 50 years of production, having maintained their visual appeal as originally designed.

Stacking Chair: DSS
(dining height side chair stacking base)

Wire Mesh Chair: DKR, DKR-2, DKR-1, PKW-1
(dining height k-wire shell r-wire base)
(pivot k-wire shell wood base)
Designed in 1951, the Eames' wire chairs are essentially a 3-D line drawing in space of the earlier fiberglass chair. Almost invisible in bulk form, this chair, in it's many configurations, was constructed of resistance-welded metal rods spaced for support. The wire chair was available with a wide variety of covers including leather, vinyl and fabric patterns designed by Eames friend, Alexander Girard. Fabrication of the wire chairs was another example of the Eames' converting war technologies to the peacetime production of well-designed consumer goods. Wire rod was already being used as a structural design element in many of the Eames' other furniture designs, including the Storage Unit Series of multi-colored cabinets and several low table wire bases.

Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Probably one of the most well known Eames chair is the molded plywood lounge chair and ottoman designed in 1956. Based on an experimental prototype that Charles and Ray had developed back in 1945 when they were first working with molded plywood, this cozy chair was made with three interlocking pieces of curved, molded plywood, leather cushions filled with down, duck feathers, and foam, and the famous shock mount found on earlier Eames' chairs. Both the chair and ottoman are supported on cast aluminum swivel bases.

Charles intended for this chair to have a "warm, receptive look of a well-used first basemen's mit". The original production model was made of rosewood but the current version is walnut. Many people were surprised at the higher cost of this chair in comparison to earlier Eames chairs which seem to have the cash conscience shopper in mind. But this steep price was based on the fact that there were more individual pieces that made up the chair that combined factory technologies with expensive hand labor and craftsmanship. Despite the high price, this chair became one of the best selling designs for Herman Miller.

Aluminum Group: Desk Chair

Although high-back models of the Aluminum Chair were made for corporate use, low-back models were designed intentionally as desk chairs. The model in this picture is fully equipped for offices with its improved reclining mechanism and swiveling casters. That the bright blue color looks sophisticated even on office chairs attests to the charm of Eames designs. Current models include five swiveling casters.

Aluminum Group: Lounge Chair

Designed in 1958 as a collaboration with Detroit industrial designer, Alexander Girard, for the interior of the Girard and Eero Saarinen's Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, the new Aluminum Group lounge chair was the result of discussions between Girard and Eames about the lack of high-quality outdoor furniture on the market.

The Eames Office had used cast aluminum before in designing elements of their postwar furniture including aluminum connectors for table knockdown bases and 18 years earlier, for the 1940 Low-cost Furniture Design competition, for which they had also attempted to stamp a one piece seating shell out of aluminum. These new Aluminum Group chairs were a major departure from the Eames' earlier work in designing the seating shell as a one-piece element. The sculptural but complicated to produce indoor/outdoor chair design was originally covered with a woven mesh of Saran fibers, the same material used as grill cloth on the Stephens Speaker.

This is a relatively early lounge model of the Aluminum Chair with a handle under the seat to adjust the reclining angle. Some collectors evaluate armless chairs higher than armchairs, since the simple yet beautiful contours of the aluminum frame are emphasized. It is a technical acheivement that all the connections of the seat-back upholstery and the frame are invisable to the users.

Aluminum Group: Executive Chair a.k.a. "The Time-Life Chair"

The Eames Office finished designing the lobbies for the Time & Life Building in 1960. The Time-Life Chair was created to satisfy the need for a conference chair that would not occupy as much space as the Lounge Chair (1956). At the same time, another model with a slightly smaller seat and casters, the Time-Life Executive Desk Chair was introduced.

Aluminum Group: Intermediate Desk Chair

In 1961, Eames designed the Time-Life Executive Chair, a desk chair version of the 1960 Time-Life Chair. A few years later, he created the Intermediate Desk Chair, a simplified version of the Time-Life Executive Chair. However, because it was very expensive for office use, production of the Intermediate Desk Chair was discontinued after a short time. Therefore, it is an exceptionally valuable one of Eames' later works.

Soft Pad Group Group: Executive Chair, Management Chair

The Soft Pad Group consistes of several chairs produced for desk and lounge use. The frames and reclining mechanisms are very similar to those of the Aluminum Chair. The characteristic pad is structurally the same as the Chaise (1968). Like the Chaise and the Lounge Chair, it was designed as part of a series of modern yet high-class furniture.

Drafting Chair

Although the Drafting Chair in the picture has a Side Chair shell, the Eames Office designed other versions, including those with Armchair shells and La Fonda Chair shells. In addition, since the lower part of the base was adopted from the Auminum Chair (1958), there were also models with swiveling casters. Because the purpose of this chair was clearly to serve draftsmen, it was available in fewer color variations than the other plastic chairs.

Loose Cushion Armchair

Although similar in shape to the Plastic Armchair (1950) with a pad attached, the Loose Cushion Chair was manufactered through a completely different process: the outer polyester shell and inner fabric were bonded by formed-in-place urethane foam filling. The legs are almost the same as the Time-Life Executive Chair (1961). Prototypes for a sofa of a similar design were made, but they were not produced for sale.

Aluminum Group: La Fonda Chair

This chair was made for the La Fonda del sol Restaurant, which was designed by Alexander Girard and opened in the Time-Life Building. The design for the chair resulted from a collaboration between Girard and the Eames Office. The shell was lowered so as to not be visible above the tabletop. Eames pursued rationally even in his designs for expensive furniture, and the base of the La Fonda Chair, perhaps influenced by Girard, is simple yet decorative. Side chairs and tables were also introduced as part of this group.

Aluminum Group: Chaise

This chair was deisgned for film director and Eames' close friend Billy Wilder to take brief afternoon naps. Wilder requested that the seat of the Chaise be narrow because he wanted to nap lying on his back with arms folded across his chest. This way, after a short time, his arms would inevitably slip over the sides of the chair and to the floor, waking him.

La Chaise

Motivated by the urgent need for low-cost housing and furnishing designs in the immediate postwar period, MoMA sponsored the "1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design." Charles made prototypes of "La Chaise" for this competition, and although only two of these prototypes are extant today, the impressive form, which resembles an abstract sculpture, is well-known as a masterpiece of twentieth-century design. The characteristic asymetry in the form of the seat was inspired by Gaston Lachaise, the floating figure sculpture. This model was reproduced around 1990 by Vitra. Philippe Starck and Woo Bajolyodin are two of the fans of this model, which they proudly display in thier homes.

Aluminum Group: Tandem Sling Seating

Aluminum Group: 3473 Sofa

An elegant reincarnation of the Eames' earlier Compact Sofa from 1954, the 3473 Sofa (named after it's catalog number) was designed in 1964 for both placement in both domestic and commercial environments. The seat and back were each constructed out of a single piece of plywood, as in the structure oof the Time-Life Chair (1960). After nearly a decade of production, the complicated detailing in the aluminum base and plywood inner support panels made this seating too costly to continue to produce.

Eames Sofa

This is the last piece of furniture produced in the Eames Office, and the production has continued to the present. Eames started designing this sofa in 1967 but set it aside, and it was not completed until after Charles' death. The frame is almost the same as that of the 3473 Sofa (1964). The back view resembles the Lounge Chair (1956). The teak panels of the original design have now been replaced by oak. There are both two-seater and three-seater versions of this sofa.

Sofa Compact

The Sofa Compact is based on the design of a sectional seating unit built into an alcove of the living room in the Eames House. It was called the "Sofa Compact" because the entire upright back section could be easily folded down for shipping or storage. This model is covered with fabric designed by Alexander Girard

furniture: tables

Plywood Table: DTW-40
(detachable table wood legs)

The Eames Office, recognizing the same need for multiple use tables as they had for chairs, created several table designs using similar materials in a straight forward manner. The early tables were also designed to be folded up and easily stored when not in use. First designed with a laminated molded top, the larger tables were soon offered with a flat and more substantial plywood top.

The DTW-40 was introduced around 1950, shortly following the dining table pictured above. Each of the four legs is fixed with two bolts and can be folded, allowing the DTW-40 to be portable and easily stored. The DTW-50, a detachable coffee table with the same structure, was also produced.

Plywood Table: DTW-1
(dining table wood legs)

Like the plywood chairs, although first manufactured by Evans Products and marketed by the Herman Miller Furniture Company, this table was manufactured solely by Herman Miller from 1949. The version in the picture is very rare because it was made by Evans Products during the early phase of its production. The connection between the detachable legs and the tabletop has been skillfully designed.

Plywood Table: OTW-1
(detachable table wood legs)

This square coffee table with the same leg components as the LCW had been manufactured since around 1946. Most likely in order to conceal the points where they are connected to the table top, each leg is secured with a black-colored wooden attachment.

Plywood Table: CTM
(coffee table metal legs)

The CTM in this picture is one of the early versions manufactured by Evans Products until around 1948. The red-colored model is rare--relatively few were produced at the time. Although this CTM has chromium-plated legs, models with black legs were also created. To match the plywood chairs, coffee tables were available with either metal or wood legs. In addition, coffee tables with V-shaped metal legs (known as "hairpin legs") were also produced.

Plywood Table: CTW
(coffee table wood legs)

The CTW is a typical example of the coffee tables designed by Eames--the tabletop and legs are all made of plywood. The tray-top contributes to the structure both functionally and aesthetically. The Eames tables at this time could be roughly divided into two groups, dining tables and coffee tables. In the same respect, their chairs could be classified as either for dining or for lounging. At the beginning of its prodcution, three-legged CTW models were manufactured

Low Table Rod Base

Borrowing the technologies of a local metal fabrication shop that made galvanized wire shelving for refrigerators, the Eames Office created structural support systems for seating, table bases, and storage components. The low table, known as the LTR, with it's wire rod base and plywood top, was designed in 1950. Like most Eames furniture, interesting connections and details such as the linear wood laminations seen in the tabletop edges were kept exposed. While most manufactures would have painted over the exposed plywood edge to hide it, the Eameses celebrated the fact that they had honestly used plywood.

Segmented Base Table

Elliptical Table Rod Base

This large table is known as the "Surfboard Table." A variety of tabletops were designed to see which would best coordinate with the same base as the LTR, and finally this elliptical one was selected. With its characteristic shape and black color, the only shade in which it was produced at the time, the ETR conveyed a very Zen feeling. A smaller version was produced exclusively in Europe.

furniture: for children

Chair and Stool

The first products Eames designed for commercial use were children's chairs, tables, and stools. Made of laminated birch, they were produced in both the wood's natural color and in a variety of bright aniline-dyed colors. The Molded Plywood Division of Evans Products manufactured a trial run of 5,000 chairs and stools. Although these products were sold at a few stores, such as Alexander Girard's shop, throughout 1946 and 1947, they were not reproduced because of the lack of demand.

furniture: stools

Walnut Stools

The stool on the far left was designed for the Time & Life Building in 1960 by Ray Eames.

furniture: screens

Plywood Folding Screen: FSW6

This flexible plywood screen consists of thinner plywood units. This product varies in height and in the number of plywood units used. At first, plywood screens were also created in red, black, and other colors. Screens could be made to order, and examples of these include a huge screen comprised of tens of panels. Its design shows the influence of Alvar Aalto, whom Charles respected.
furniture: storage units

Eames Storage Units: Series 400

A colorful answer to the problem of storage, the ESU was designed by the Eames team and introduced to the public in 1950 by the Herman Miller Co. As with the Eames' house, which was completed just a year before these storage units were designed, also used the Eames "off-the-shelf" design concept for their construction.

Like building blocks, the consumer could choose from birch veneer, walnut, or solid black plastic laminate for the shelf tops connected by the angle iron shelving supports.

Brilliant blue, red, or yellow masonite panels with a baked finish were used for filler panels along with drawers which were made of plywood. The sliding doors were produced in black laminate, white fiberglass cloth, or a thin birch plywood with a vacuum-pressed circular "dimple" design - the choice was yours to make.

While the adults were playing with their new "storage toy" the children were not forgotten in that the larger storage units were shipped fully assembled in an Eames designed carton which came with instructions describing how to convert the carton into a child's playhouse. Just another example of how the Eames Office designed with everyone in mind.

furniture: prototypes

The prototypes are still being cataloged, please check again later.
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