The combined Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is indubitably one of midcentury modern’s most enduring and covetable design classics.
Designed by the inimitable Charles and Ray Eames and released in 1956, the Lounge Chair and Ottoman have their origins in the Eameses exploration of moulding plywood (prototypes for the chair were created ten years earlier by the Eames Office, in 1946). Resembling a well-worn leather baseman’s mitt and considered a modern version of the Victorian club chair, the Lounge Chair is a true icon of modern American design and a symbol of luxurious comfort. When set together, the arrangement of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is so identifiable that it is a registered trademark.
The 60-Year-Old Classic
Continuously produced by Herman Miller since its arrival in 1956 (and later by Vitra), the timeless Eames Lounge Chair (670) and Ottoman (671) celebrated its 60th birthday in 2016. Owing to the unchanging design, owners of older 670/671 models (referring to Herman Miller’s part numbers for the chair and ottoman) are able to acquire replacement parts. Crafted with meticulous care and attention, the Lounge Chair is made up of seven-ply veneer shells, individually upholstered cushions and a built-in swivel mechanism.
A Chair That’s Good for You
Charles and Ray Eames designed the Lounge Chair with a permanent tilt in order to support the sitter’s lower spine and back. Moreover, resting one’s feet on the Ottoman aids normal blood circulation. The Eameses believed strongly in the need for respite and comfort, in a warm welcome and refuge. Their Lounge Chair and Ottoman provide each of these elements with aplomb.
The Lowdown on the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
- The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is in the permanent collections of more than twenty major museums (including New York’s MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago and London’s V&A).
- The Eames Office originally designed the base of the chair and ottoman as a base for a contract table.
- During its first ten years of production, Herman Miller made the Lounge Chair and Ottoman with leather, fabric or naugahyde (an artificial leather-like material). However, Charles and Ray strongly recommended the use of ‘best aucht’ leather sourced from Scotland: here, farmers refrained from using barbed wire with their cattle and thus the leather was unmarked.
- The cushions on the Lounge Chair and Ottoman are both symmetrical and interchangeable.
- The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman was awarded first prize at the 1957 La Triennale di Milano.
- Herman Miller and Vitra are the only two companies producing authentic Eames Lounge Chairs and Ottomans.
- In cooperation with the Eames Office, Vitra developed a new larger version of the Lounge Chair and Ottoman, suited to taller people.
- The bottoms (buttocks) of many notable persons have graced the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, including: Muhammad Ali, Jim Henson (creator of The Muppets), Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and Frank Sinatra.
Note to reader:
Facts and details presented in this article were obtained via the Eames Office and Herman Miller.