Modern Classics: Eames Lounge & Ottoman

Since its introduction in 1956, the Eames "Lounge (670)" and "Ottoman (671)" as the set is officially titled, designed by husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames, has become an icon. While the set embodies some of the typical aestetic characteristics of its design contemporaries (notably its stream lined design), the set has something that many midcentury modern pieces lack in their aim for beauty: comfort. The unique combination of modern (molded plywood) with classic (easy chair leather) make this set timeless.

Before the Lounge was released in the mid 1950s, The Eames were already well known for their innovative work with new materials and techniques. Their design philosophy was all about creating pieces that were modern, practical, attractive - and affordable. While the pair had been working with the technique of molding plywood for some time, they had never lended the technique to a high end piece. In fact, the Lounge was their first foray into high end design. It took them years to finish their design of the Lounge and Ottoman, applying knowledge and techniques used in their lower prices pieces, but this time allowing themselves to work with more expensive materials.

When the design was complete, it was not considered by all to be outstanding in the looks department. In fact, it was Ray Eames who described it in a letter to Charles as "comfortable and un-designy." This description is not necessarily an insult, as the vision for the chair was not intended to be a cold beauty. Charles described their plan to create "the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt." It is this blending of the best of both worlds - sleek modern design and nostaglic comfort that makes the chair so special.

Though the way the leather ages and the wood wears over time serves to make this sleek easy chair even softer and more luxurious as the years pass, this is not the only reason that vintage versions of the piece are considered highly desireable. Many of the chairs prodcued before 1992 were made with a Brazilian rosewood veneer which would eventually become officicially endagered and is no longer produced.

The Eames Lounge, which has been in production continually since its design (for the US market by Herman Miller and for the European market by Vitra), has solidified its place in design history with a spot in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Here is a look at some examples of how the Lounge enhances a room, from when it was first released to current time.

TOP ROW:
1. A classic seen at Aram
2. Charles and Ray Eames in the Case Study House #8 photographed by Julius Shulman
3. In white in a room designed by the firm Ashe + Leandro
4. Standing its own along side other mid century classics in Dwell
5. Well loved in a Brooklyn home seen in Dwell

BOTTOM ROW:
6. At home in Denmark in an entry by Lasse for our annual Apartment Therapy Small Cool Contest Apartment Therapy
7. Sharing the spotlight with a Jean Prouve Potence Lamp in a Brooklyn couple's home as seen in the New York Times
8. A modern classic in Dwell
9. In black and white at Vitra
10. An eclectic mix from Nuevo Estilo

(Images: as linked above)