10 Things To Know About Your Eames Chair

published Feb 3, 2016
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(Image credit: David Telford)

So you bought an Eames chair because it was cool. It’s okay—so did I. But now when people come over and say, “I like your chair, where did you get that?” it’d be nice to tell them a little more than, “It’s from a designer.” Here are 10 fun facts about your chair that you can throw around at the next cocktail party, because, you know, knowing stuff is also pretty darn cool, too.

(Image credit: Kristan Lieb)

1. The very first Eames chair was designed by Charles Eames and was made of stamped steel. But steel, with a necessary neoprene coating to add warmth, was far too expensive to mass produce. Ultimately they were made of Zenaloy, a plastic resin reinforced with fiberglass.

2. The chair’s original colors were greige, elephant hide grey, and parchment. The colors were chosen mostly by designer Ray Eames, Charles’ wife, and soon she’d added seafoam green, yellow, and red to the mix. Thank goodness they now come in 14 different colors, including “kelly green,” “red orange,” and “aqua sky.”

3. Charles was never happy with the coloring of the fiberglass. Even though the “vintage” patina is sought-after today, Charles was always hoping for a solid, uniform, matte finish coating to his chairs.

(Image credit: 1st Dibs)

4. The Eames chair was made for a competition… and it didn’t even win. The competition was the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, held in 1948, which would culminate in an exhibition at MoMA. The prize pool was $50,000, and the winner? Don Knorr’s Side Chair (above).

5. DAX? LAX? SAX? One of the selling points of the molded armchair was its adaptability—two different tops, with or without arms, could be attached to a variety of bases. The codes refer to these various combinations, and common codes include SAX (H-shaped metal base, standard armchair), DAX (X-shaped base, dining armchair), DSR (Eiffel Tower-shaped base, side chair), DSW (wooden dowel legs, side chair), and RAR (rocking armchair).

6. A vintage rocker is a rare find indeed. The Eames fiberglass rocker ceased production in 1968; however, the company continued to give them as gifts to pregnant employees until 1984.

7. A dollhouse version of the chair was designed but never produced. In 1959, the Eames designed a toy-sized version of their own house, complete with miniatures of all their designs to that date, but this dollhouse never went into production.

8. Production of the fiberglass originals ceased in 1989 for environmental reasons. The material’s chemistry and their lack of recyclability led Herman Miller and Ray Eames to cease production on the armchairs. After exploring alternate materials, they began making the chairs again in recyclable polypropylene in 2000. In 2013, Herman Miller announced the return of fiberglass—a new, recyclable kind! Hooray!

(Image credit: Herman Miller)

9. Your chair has relatives at the airport. Did you know the same man who created your beloved Eames chair also worked with his co-designer/wife to design the most popular airport seating of all time? That’s right, the Tandem Sling Seating, designed first for the O’Hare International Airport, is from the same creative mind that brought you your fiberglass dining room beauty.

10. Could Ray have done it better? Charles famously said of his wife, “Anything I can do, Ray can do better.” I wonder what she would have come up with for the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, way back in 1948. I wonder if she would’ve won?