When they unveiled the Eames Lounge Chair in 1956, Charles and Ray Eames described their new design as being “comfortable and un-designy”.
Despite that, this Eames chair has gone on to become an icon of modern American design, appearing in films and television series as diverse as “Iron Man”, “Gossip Girl” and “Doctor Who”. It has
also inspired a wide range of replicas, some of which have even been hailed as better than the original.
You’ve seen an Eames Lounge Chair. Even if you think you haven’t, trust me, you have. OK, OK, I’m no mind reader, but the Eames Lounge Chair is an icon of modern American design. First
launched in 1956 as the Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671) (the latter being the little footstool that comes with it), the chair’s co-designer Charles Eames said he wanted it to “resemble the
warmth, familiarity and comfort of a well worn baseball mitt”. It’s that discrete, familiar comfort that made this most of famous Eames chair (for Charles and his wife Ray designed many) an icon of the Modern movement and as ubiquitous a piece of unshowy but stylish design as a Vettriano painting.
It’s also why anyone who has ever watched an American TV series or film has seen one. Even if you don’t think you have. Gilbert Grissom had one in his apartment in "CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation". Donald Draper and Dr Gregory House both have them in their offices. There was even a snazzy all white one in "Tron: Legacy". It’s hard to describe the piece without pictures, but
I’ll try. The Eames Lounge Chair almost resembles a bucket seat in design. Its back, arms and seat are joined together by aluminium supports. The whole thing is fitted at a backwards angle to its
swivel base, pulling the sitter back into its mitt-like shape. The raising of the sitter's legs makes the accompanying footstool (it's that Ottoman again) near essential and the whole thing
almost ridiculously comfortable.
There's a reason the Eames chair has made so many appearances on film and television. The Eames Lounge Chair’s popularity and multitudinous appearances on the box are symbiotic. It was
unveiled in 1956, on the “Home” show, NBC’s hugely popular daytime magazine programme fronted by actress and game show panellist Arlene Francis and a huge advertising campaign followed
immediately. The campaign - which showed the Eames chair in a variety of unlikely locales including a hay field, a Victorian parlour and on the front porch of a house straight out of the America
Gothic - focused on the Eames chair’s versatility. It’s that same versatility which explains its continuous place in popular culture - and, in particular, the American popular imagination. The
Eames Lounge Chair is comfortable yet smart, stylish yet understated. That’s why it can sit as easily in Frasier’s luxurious Seattle apartment as it can in the TARDIS.
The Eames Lounge Chair has become almost the epitome of a perennial favourite, having been in continual production since its launch. In America, it has been producedby Herman Miller, while
Vitra began producing Eames chairs in Europe a while later. It has also inspired replicas, imitations and knock offs of varying quality - China being the source of many. Some of these are dire to
say the least. Spray painted cushions, exposed screws and poor quality materials are amongst the complaints that have come from those who bought cheap, fast buck knock offs. On the other hand,
some replica Eames chairs have been hailed as even better than the originals, offering increased versatility and the option to customise the colours of your purchase to fit your tastes and the
design of your home or office.
The Eames Lounge Chair has long been an icon of usability and style. You’ve seen it so many
times that you don’t even realise it. Now you’ve come to understand why it’s so popular, maybe it’s time you started paying it a bit more attention.