The Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman were designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956 for the Herman Miller furniture company. It was the first chair that the Eameses designed for a high-end market, characterized by an elegant and futuristic plywood and leather composition.
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The Origin of the Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman have their origin in Charles and Ray’s investigations into molding plywood and a desire to improve upon a familiar fixture in many living rooms: the lounge chair. Citing as inspiration the English Club Chair – a type of armchair, usually covered in leather – Charles said he sought to design a modern version of that chair, one that had “the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.”
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Almost immediately, the chair and ottoman became an icon of American design. Today, these pieces not only live in museums, for instance as part of the permanent collection of New York’s MoMA but continue to offer comfort and style to interiors everywhere in the world.
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A New Take on the 19th Century Club Chair
When the set was introduced in 1956, there was nothing like it, and there is still nothing to equal it. The Eameses’ modern take on a nineteenth-century club chair has not only endured for more than 50 years, but it has also become one of the most significant furniture designs of the twentieth century—instantly recognizable and enduringly fresh. Since its introduction, the Eames Chair & Ottoman had such an incredible outcome that it has been in continuous production by Herman Miller in America. Not much later, Vitra began producing the chair for the European market making it a great success overseas as well.
The details are not the details. They make the design.
– Ray and Eames
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Which are the Materials of the Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman?
Both the chair and ottoman are hand-assembled with great attention paid to even the smallest details. Shells are 7-ply veneers, cushions are individually upholstered and replaceable and the back braces and bases—of both the chair and ottoman—are die-cast aluminum.
The chair base has a built-in swivel mechanism while the shock mounts are made of resilient natural rubber. Finally, the stainless steel glides are adjustable for maximum comfort.
The Ergonomics of the Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman
The chair is composed of three curved plywood shells: the headrest, the backrest, and the seat. In early production, beginning in 1956 and running through the very early 1990s, the shells were made up of five thin layers of plywood which were covered by a veneer of Brazilian rosewood but the process was then dismissed in favor of a simpler one.
The seat is permanently tilted to take the weight off the lower spine and distribute it properly to the back of the chair. The lower cushion piece supports the customer lower back, so they feel relaxed. The angle supports a person’s chest so that the seating is more comfortable as one reads, watches a movie, or has a conversation.
The ottoman also provides a health benefit for the user. Most of the people sit or stand all day, so blood collects in the lower extremities. Resting the feet on the ottoman helps restore normal blood circulation.
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An Iconic Design Made to Last in Time
The chair and ottoman get better with age because of how they are made.
The structure, for example, will remain compact – as innovative hardware solidly fastens the cushions to the shell – and the cushions will not flatten or clump over time. As Charles Eames described them, “the leather cushions do have built-in wrinkles to start with, but that is a clue that spells comfort to come, like the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt”.
Each hide used for the cushions possesses variations that are a natural occurrence in leather, and each will age to reveal its own unique personality.
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Provide Additional Choices: the Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman Versions
To provide additional choices for complementing a range of interiors, the chair and ottoman are offered in ebony-stained or white ash veneer shells.
The ebonized version is available with a choice of black MCL Leather or one of several Mohair colors. The metal components of the white ash chair are finished in white to highlight the polished aluminum accents on the base.
Today, the chair and ottoman are available in two sizes, a variety of veneers, and a choice of leather upholstery options or Mohair Supreme, a plush, 100 percent Mohair textile. The same high level of quality and workmanship is guaranteed, regardless of the selection made.
- Designers: Charles and Ray Eames;
- Original production date: 1956;
- Manufacturers: Herman Miller, Vitra;
- Materials: molded plywood (walnut or rosewood veneers), cast aluminum, black leather-covered latex foam and down upholstery, rubber;
- Dimensions: overall (chair): 83.8 x 83.8 x 83.8 cm (33 x 33 x 33 in.); overall (ottoman): 44.5 x 66 x 54.6 cm (17 1/2 x 26 x 21 1/2 in.).