Who doesn't recognize the Eames lounge chair and ottoman? It lives in museums like MoMA in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, in stylish interiors everywhere, and as a tattoo on a devotee's arm. It has been the subject of documentary films and books. It even has its own fan website. Calling it a classic is an understatement. It's the quintessential example of mid-century design—elegant and profoundly comfortable too.
When the Eames chair and ottoman was introduced in 1956, there was nothing else like it. The design was completely new. It has not only endured for more than 50 years—it has become one of the significant furniture designs of the 20th century. Instantly recognizable. And still fresh. Charles Eames said he wanted the chair to have the "warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt." A look that would make you want to relax into it. The design emphasizes its function. To make that happen, the Eameses—Charles and his wife Ray—used production techniques that combined technology and handcraftsmanship.
Even a unique and beautiful chair would never have lasted if it were not comfortable. The comfort built into the Eames lounge chair and ottoman helps explain its enduring popularity, compared to other chairs that are also considered icons of 20th century design.
The chair has 6-inch-thick urethane foam cushions. The seat is permanently tilted at a 15-degree angle to take the weight off your lower spine and properly distribute it to the back of the chair. The lower back piece supports your lower back. The result? You feel relaxed. The angle also means that your chest is supported so that you can be comfortable as you read, move around while talking, or watch a movie.
The ottoman also provides a health benefit. Most of us sit or stand all day, so blood collects in the lower extremities. Resting your feet on the ottoman helps restore normal blood circulation.
Like all classics, the chair and ottoman just get better with age. Both are hand-assembled with great attention paid to the details. Shells are 7-ply cherry, natural cherry, walnut, or santos palisander, a richly grained veneer that looks like the Brazilian rosewood used on the original chair but is a sustainable tropical wood.
Cushions are individually upholstered and replaceable; back cushions are interchangeable. The back braces and bases—of both the chair and ottoman—are die-cast aluminum. The chair base has a built-in swivel mechanism. Shock mounts are resilient natural rubber. Stainless steel glides are adjustable.
We changed one aspect of the original chair—the original Brazilian rosewood is an endangered, nonsustainable wood, which we stopped using two decades ago. All veneers used now on the chair and ottoman are from sustainably managed forests. We use 24% recycled materials in our chair and ottoman, which are 29% recyclable. It's much more likely, however, that you will pass this chair on to another generation.
The first Eames lounge chair and ottoman was made as a gift for Billy Wilder, the director of "Some Like It Hot," "Irma La Douce," and "Sunset Blvd." The heritage of the chair goes back to the molded plywood chairs pioneered by the Eameses in the 1940s. Charles Eames said his goal for the chair was that it be "a special refuge from the strains of modern living."
The first lounge chair and ottoman produced by Herman Miller, in 1956, made its public debut on Arlene Francis's Home show, a predecessor of the Today show. Commenting on the unique design, Charles Eames told Francis, "We've never designed for a fashion, and the Herman Miller furniture company has never, ever requested that we do pieces for a market." During the interview, a short film was shown in which a man--Charles described him as "a typical Herman Miller employee"--assembled and disassembled the lounge chair, showing how simple the design was.
Francis ended the segment by quoting something she said she had read about Charles and Ray: "The Eameses' desire to move freely in a world of enormous and unlimited possibilities is combined with a very accurate sense of discrimination and taste. It's an ability to select among the unlimited possibilities and return considerable richness to the world."