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Design Classic Stories: The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

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 Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in the Eames House living room. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in the Eames House living room. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
Ray Eames sitting on an experimental lounge chair in 1946. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.
The glorious and graceful Ray Eames sitting on an experimental lounge chair in 1946. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman and walnut and white ash. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman made using walnut and white ash respectively. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.

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.

RELATED: The Eclectic World of Charles and Ray Eames

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
A 1956 Herman Miller advertisement for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image via Salt.
A 1956 Herman Miller advertisement for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image via Salt.
A Herman Miller advertisement for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image via the World Office Forum Eames Pinterest board (Source).
A Herman Miller advertisement for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Image via the World Office Forum ‘Eames’ Pinterest board (Source).
Eames Lounge Chairs in different veneers. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
Eames Lounge Chairs in different veneers. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.

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.

RELATED: Inspiration Hollywood: Contemporary Interiors Sporting The Timeless Eames Lounge Chair

Eames Lounge Chair. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc. 
Ageless wrinkles on the Eames Lounge Chair. Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in the Eames House (alongside the classic Eames sofa and Walnut Stools). Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in the Eames House (alongside the classic Eames sofa and Walnut Stools). Image © 2016 Herman Miller, Inc.

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.
Muhammad Ali at home on his Eames Lounge Chair in 1970. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.USA.
Muhammad Ali at home in 1970, seated on his Eames Lounge Chair. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.USA.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on the Lounge Chair and Ottoman respectively. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.
Frank Sinatra at home with his dog Ringo. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.
Frank Sinatra at home with his dog Ringo. Image © 2016 Eames Office, LLC.

Note to reader:

Facts and details presented in this article were obtained via the Eames Office and Herman Miller.

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