Design icon: Vitra Eames Lounge Chair
Sometimes a chair is just a chair, but sometimes it is something more. One of the most famous chairs in modern design history, the Eames Lounge Chair is recognised all over the world for its distinctive plywood curves and inviting comfort.
We take a look at the story behind this iconic design.
The couple who shaped the way we live today
One of the most influential design duos of all time, Charles and Ray Eames created designs to solve problems. Bringing modernism to the masses in the post-war years, many of their original chair designs were focused around providing great design, at an affordable price to the largest possible amount of people. You can read more about the story behind this iconic couple in our Eames Story journal piece.
From the Eames Shell Chairs to the Eames Plywood Chair, the Eameses early chair designs were moulded to the human body, crafted to be comfortable without the need for upholstery. However, the Eames Lounge Chair needed a whole different level of comfort...
“A special refuge from the strains of modern living”
Modelled on a traditional English Club Chair, the Eames Lounge Chair was originally designed as a gift for the couple’s friend Billy Wilder, director of films including Sunset Boulevard and Some Like it Hot.
Described by the couple as ‘a special refuge from the strains of modern living’ – the Eames’ spent several years developing a design that set new standards for this classic style. Lighter, more elegant and far more modern than a traditional club chair design, this lounge chair combined ultimate comfort with expert craftsmanship.
Designed to have ‘the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt’, the story goes that when Charles invited Julian Blaustein to test out a prototype of the lounge chair whilst reading scripts, the designer returned to find his friend sound asleep. Blaustein was embarrassed but Charles was delighted.
In 1956, the Eames Lounge Chair was officially introduced to the world on the national television channel NBC. The Eames’ were invited to appear on The Home Show, hosted by Arlene Francis. A chair that captured the attention of the world, since then this design has become a true icon.
Now housed in the permanent collection of over 20 museums worldwide, the Eames Lounge Chair has attained classic status within the world of modern furniture design.
Expertly crafted to last generations
The sole authorised manufacturer for Europe and the Middle East; the partnership between the Eames’ and Vitra began in 1957. Now over 60 years on, Vitra is still producing Eames Lounge Chairs using the exact same manufacturing methods.
Since the chairs original release, the average human height has increased by 10cm – leading Vitra to create a slightly larger version of this classic design to suit modern audiences. The model may have been adjusted but the design is still the same. Working closely with the Eames Office over the years, Vitra has ensured that every lounge chair produced today still gives its user the exact experience that Charles and Ray intended.
The process of creating an Eames Lounge Chair involves 47 different steps, all of which are carried out by an expertly trained team of craftsmen. To make the curved shell sections of the chair, multiple layers of plywood veneer are glued, heated and pressed over custom moulds. For the cushions, each piece of leather is lovingly hand-cut and stitched before being carefully attached to the moulded shell panels. So that no fixings are made visible, a zipper on each cushion attaches to a plastic backing which is then clipped onto a number of hidden rings within the shell. Finally attached to a die-cast aluminium base, the Eames Lounge Chair is complete.
The beauty of retaining the same production methods is that however old your Eames Lounge Chair may be, if anything ever needs repairing or replacing, Vitra will be able to help. This is the guarantee only an original can offer.
A distinctive collection
Over the years, new finishes have been added to the Eames Lounge Chair collection. Choose your perfect lounge chair from a selection of carefully coordinated leather upholstery colours, wood veneers and bases.
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