The Eames Molded Chair

February 8, 2017

Yesterday I was assembling a pink reproduction Eames molded chair that will be used for our kitchen nook. The Eames chairs have a little spot in my heart. Even as a little girl, I loved these chairs. I remember in elementary school, I would walk into music class where several rows of Eames fiberglass chairs sat waiting for us. They were in a variety of colors; green, blue and yellow. I recalling sitting on the chairs and noticing how shiny they were and seeing the fiberglass threads always made me curious.

Years later, my husband purchased an original early rope edge production chair in yellow that someone found in a basement of a store they had purchased. Later, we became owners of another Eames chair –  purple upholstery.

The history of this simple, yet elegant chair is quite fascinating if you ask me!

“Eames” was a husband and wife team, Charles and Ray Eames.

Charles was going to school for architecture and design and would end up leaving the University although it’s said that he was dropped because his views were just “too modern”.

The couple worked on creating molded wood furniture and products. They designed splints and stretchers for the US Navy during World War II.

After the war, the government worked on creating affordable housing but the Museum of Modern Art was concerned by the lack of attention to affordable and attractive home furniture. They announced the International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture at a hosted dinner with several furniture designers. They would get thousands of entries for the competition.

At the 1948 competition, Eames wins second place for the Molded Chair and La Chaise, both made of metal at the time.

After the competition, they worked on production. Several negative factors popped up right away which included the cost of metal and the machines to make it (out of metal), plus the fact metal is cold and will rust over time. Charles Eames sketched the chair (on craft paper) and took it to John Willis, a fiberglass boat manufacture.

Willis produced two chairs for $25 each. Charles only had enough money for one chair so he left the other with Willis (this chair is at the Henry Ford Museum today).

September 1949, Charles had a meeting with Zenith Plastics to talk about the manufacturing of the chairs. He talked about how to secure the base to the chair but also adding a rope edge around the inside. As a result of great conversation, in a one page contract, they sealed the deal.

Later, the rope edge was removed because it was an extra step in the process creating additional costt. Today, the rope edge chair is extremely rare and hard to find because of the limited years of production.

Original colors were Greige (grey/beige), Elephant Hide Grey, and Parchment (translucent). They later added sea foam green, yellow and red along with an option for upholstery.

In the manufacturing facility, they hired war veterans and house wives. All expecting mothers would receive a rocker arm chair as a gift.

Herman Miller and Modernica still make the original Eames fiberglass chairs and the process is slightly different as it’s more environmentally friendly to produce.

Today, you can find many reproduction versions of this chair.

And there you have it! The history of the Eames molded chair. By the way, that dog Tofu definitely thinks he’s a model.