What Makes the Eames Chair So Special?

The Eames wanted their armchair and footrest to have the “warm and welcoming look” of a widely used first base glove. Often referred to as a 20th century interpretation of the 19th century English club chair, this seat instantly became a symbol of comfort. The chair was strange and avant-garde, a peculiar mix of padded black leather and corrugated, laminated plywood cases that rolled up like a beetle. Charles said that the inspiration was “a widely used first base glove”.

Most importantly, it was scalable, it could be manufactured and sold quickly and in large quantities. It is said that the Rays and Charles wanted to design a better version of an armchair after seeing their friend, Hollywood director Billy Wilder, try to relax in several armchairs during the chaotic flurry of filming. The designers set out to create a better armchair with the feel and aesthetics of a widely used baseball glove. The result was a luxurious, reclining chair, designed with a molded plywood shell, a headrest and a headrest, all upholstered in soft, buttery leather with tufts.

The Eames premiered the armchair in the United States in 1956 on the NBC show Home, hosted by television legend Arlene Francis. When Emily Kirkpatrick visited Seattle last summer with some friends, they stayed in a modern lakeside house on the outskirts of the city, with steel beams, floor-to-ceiling windows and a black leather Eames armchair, which reclined dramatically with its own sculptural glamor, like the red Ferrari California Spyder from “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”. The first generation of molded and bent birch plywood side chairs from Eames began rolling off the production lines in 1946. The couple is responsible for producing an enormous amount of furniture designs, as well as toys, an impressive number of exhibitions, conferences and dozens of films, but they are still known mostly for the sculptural chairs that continue to bear their name. Arguably, Ray and Charles Eames were two of the greatest innovators of American industrial and furniture design.

The Eames armchair and pouf, iconic pieces of twentieth-century American modernism designed by the husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, have long enjoyed cult status among architecture and design enthusiasts, who drool over the veins of the wood, have no visible screws (except the armrests) and recline permanently. “Form never followed function in such a perfect way” says interior designer Hubert Zandberg who says he has been sitting in his Eames living room every day for the past 20 years. After the war, the Eames focused on the domestic environment and in the late 1950s they set out to create a chair with as Charles said “the warm and responsive look of a widely used first base glove”. Nina Barnieh-Blair of Nina B Design owns an Eames black leather lounger and called it a “topic of much discussion in her home”.

This beloved husband and wife duo was the driving force behind the famous Eames armchair one of the many pieces by the designers. It is the chair chosen by the judges of “Shark Tank” and it appears in Serena van der Woodsen's attic in “Gossip Girl” where it was recovered in a classic Missoni chevron. However more recently the chair seems to have found a new audience perhaps more interested in its instantly recognisable silhouette and famous price than in its distinguished heritage. Designed for Michigan-based furniture retailer Herman Miller in 1956 the Eames armchair and footrest were made from Brazilian rosewood and could be finished with a variety of upholstery options such as fabric Naugahyde and leather.

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