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At the time many of these original chairs were being made, Charles Eames had to repeatedly interject that they were designed in equal partnership with his wife, Ray, as hard as that was to fathom in the 1940s and '50s. Decades later, the couple's work is found in homes and offices the world over, and held in great esteem in terms of modernist vision.
Learn more about the history, identification, and value of a number of different Eames chair styles, which were manufactured by Herman Miller originally and later by Vitra for distribution in Europe and the Middle East.
-Eames Lounge Chair and Ottomon
This classic Eames design was introduced in 1956, and has been made continuously by Herman Miller since then. According to Eames Office, "The Eameses wanted their Lounge Chair and Ottoman to have the 'warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.' Often referred to as a twentieth-century interpretation of the nineteenth-century English club chair, this seating instantly became a symbol of comfort—and comfort was one of Charles and Ray’s key objectives for this product."
One of the aspects making it so comfortable is the way the seat is permanently tilted to take the weight off the lower spine. The first chair and ottoman were crafted of molded plywood bases, and finished in black leather with button tufting. The original versions made by Herman Miller in the mid-1950s touted "soft, wrinkly leather and plush down feathers" akin to more traditional upholstered chair styles.
Herman Miller now offers the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottomon in a variety of leather colors with coordinating woods. Vitra, a Swiss maker of modern-style furniture, has produced this design (along with others), for distribution in Europe and the Middle East. These are not copies or reproductions, since Vitra was authorized to produce the furniture using the original Eames specifications.
-Eames Aluminum Group Chairs
The Aluminum Group features a number of different chair styles. From side chairs to management chairs, these work well for both their stylish form and office efficiency whether used at a clerk's desk, in a boardroom setting, or an executive's suite.
The first models were available in leather and upholstered versions with high and low backs, depending on the intended use. As the name denotes, the frames of these chairs are made of aluminum cast in one piece. Leather dominates current production by Herman Miller and Vitra, although an outdoor version is available with durable all-weather woven fabric.
This grouping came about, interestingly enough, when fellow modernist designer Eero Saarinen asked the Eames' to produce a special project line for his and Alexander Girard’s Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, according to Eames Office. That line was intended to be for outdoor use, but morphed into this complete line of office chairs that is still as popular today as they were when they were introduced in 1958.
-Eames Executive/Lobby Chair
When first introduced in 1960, these were known as “Time Life Lobby Chairs.” The first setting where they were used was in the Time Life Building's lobby, since they were commissioned by Time, Inc. founder Henry Luce. They were designed to replicate the comfort of the Eames Lounge Chair in a style that would work in a lobby or conference room setting.
Another claim to fame for this chair came more than a decade later. Bobby Fischer insisted on sitting in one for his world chess championship match in 1972. His opponent, Boris Spasky, requested the same treatment and officials scrambled to get another Eames Lobby Chair brought over for the meet.
The current authorized production of this design is called the Eames Executive Chair by Herman Miller, and the Eames Lobby Chair by Vitra.