EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MID-CENTURY MODERN EAMES FURNITURE
Dream of Eames? Let us be the first to assure you, it’s a nightly occurrence around here as well! And why shouldn’t it be? When it comes to defining Mid-Century Modern design, a vintage Eames chair is the holy grail. Showcasing body-conscious forms, don’t-mess-with-me durability, and a parade of playful colors to choose from, vintage Eames furniture is the antithesis of lavish design—yet it still feels special, as if it were crafted exclusively for you.
So was the aim of Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife team for whom vintage Eames furniture is named. The design duo met in 1940 at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit and married the following year. While Charles Eames excelled at technical design, Ray had a notorious eye for aesthetics. Following their marriage, the couple packed up and shipped out west to Los Angeles where they began experimenting with molding plywood. After opening a studio, their work caught the eye of George Nelson, the design director for Herman Miller. Equipped with the mantra “Design is an expression of the purpose,” vintage Eames furniture came into fruition in partnership with Herman Miller (Hence the reason you may sometimes see Eames Chairs also marketed as Herman Miller Eames chairs). Learn about our favorite vintage Eames furniture below!
ICONIC MID-CENTURY MODERN EAMES FURNITURE COLLECTIONS
DCM Eames Chair
One of earliest Eames designs, the DCM chair offers up the seemingly impossible: a plywood chair with upholstered chair-worthy comfort. After moving to L.A., Charles and Ray Eames began toying with homemade machine they enthusiastically deemed the “Kazam! Machine.” The machine pressed wood veneer against a heat source to sculpt the wood into toned, look-at-me curves. The DCM chair’s construction relied heavily on this technology to create an expertly contoured seat and backrest. The seat and backrest were in turn held together with a T-shaped metal rod, which attached to the chair’s four, antennae-like legs. While this vintage Eames piece makes an ideal pick if you’re looking for an Eames desk chair or Eames Dining Chair, its masterful design allows it to succeed as a stand-alone accent chair in a living room as well. If you prefer a more finished look, try a DCW chair, which swaps out the metal legs for sculpted wood ones.
Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman
Among the many endorsements that the Eames lounge chair and ottoman has received over the years, is one embedded in a Playboy Magazine article from 1961. In the watershed article, the magazine stated that the Eames Lounge Chair “sinks the sitter into voluptuous luxury that few mortals since Nero have known.” Clearly, when Charles and Ray Eames set out to create a leather lounge chair that made the world a comfier place, they succeeded. The Eames Lounge chair and ottoman has been graced by everyone from Steve Jobs to Jane Fonda. While most furniture Charles and Ray Eames designed for Herman Miller was mindful of production cost, the Eames spared no expense in came to their quest to create a truly heavenly seat. Crafted almost entirely by hand, the Eames Lounge Chair features foam-stuffed cushions, hand-sewn leather, and a sculpted back that is constructed by seven sheets of glued plywood (originals actually featured exotic Brazilian rosewood). But the true secret of the Eames Lounge Chair’s success? The lounge chair sits at a 15-degree angle, allowing maximum kick-back-and-relax comfort.
Eames La Chaise
A quirky anomaly in the vintage Eames furniture lineup is La Chaise, designed in 1948 for The Museum of Modern Art’s “International Competition for Low Cost Furniture Design.” Ironically, the design proved too costly to be produced during the Eames’ lifetime, but in 1996 it entered production due to consumer demand. Composed of two bonded fiberglass shells, this piece showcases a body-con form that harks back to the molded Eames shell chair, but pairs it with a languid, sculptural shape that the Eames reportedly borrowed from Gaston Lachaise’s Floating Figure sculpture. Indeed, when viewing this piece of vintage Eames furniture, it’s easy to liken its shape to a reclining female nude. It’s a sensual, playful piece, with a circle cut-out in the back that prevents it from feeling too heavy. We can visualize this one anywhere from a living room to an outdoor patio.
Molded Eames Shell Chair
While we’ll admit that it’s tempting to write off this classic Eames dining chair as ‘nuff said, our all-out dedication to this chair prevents us from summing it up so brazenly. Released in 1950, the molded Eames shell chair was designed to provide the public with a piece of durable, supremely functional furniture at a value price. When the design debuted at the International Competition for Low Cost Furniture Design, the chair was originally rendered in metal, but the Charles and Ray Eames switched it to plastic to further lower production costs. Other materials that have made an appearance over the years include fiberglass, upholstery, wood, and wire—and that doesn’t even include base options! When it comes to legs, the molded shell chair come with the option of metal, dowels, or the spectacular metal “Eiffel” base. If you’re looking for an Eames Rocking Chair, you can also find models with glides attached to the base. In fact, currently, the molded Eames shell chair has enough finish and base options to allow for 21 different iterations.