Eames Chair Evolution

Though still recognizable at first glance, the iconic Eames chair is changing to fit every home and style.

By Moe Godat 

Photography courtesy of Herman Miller Furniture


When the Eames couple first began designing chairs for Herman Miller Furniture in the late 1940s, they focused their designs on comfort, fashion and affordability. However, the married couple’s most famous innovation centered around luxury for then-modern homes, leading to its inevitable placement in museums all over the world. As a piece created after WWII, the Eames chair reflects a time of “waste not, want not” while still adding flair and style to any room.

Charles Eames and his wife, Ray, wanted to create a chair that had “the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt. ”To achieve this, the pair used fine leather for the seat cushions, backrest and ottoman. These cushions, instead of being stapled or nailed down, are attached to the curved wood by a zipper that adheres to a stiff plastic backing.

The Eames chair has three curved plywood shells that make up the headrest, backrest and seat base. When production first began in 1956, a veneer of Brazilian rosewood covered the five pressed layers of plywood to give the chair the air of luxury; now, due to accessibility, the veneer is primarily finished with cherry, walnut or Palisander rosewood.

“This handsome chair is immediately recognizable by anyone with an eye for contemporary furniture,” says Dana Romeis of Castle Design. The Eames chair has stood the test of time with its timeless look and maximum comfort, acting as a centerpiece for homes and offices for the past 60 years. You may even recognize the Eames chair from its countless appearances in movies and television shows. But recently, the Eames chair has been going through some changes to make it fit more comfortably in a modern home.

“Historically, its appeal is in its classic masculine form, finishes and feet-up comfort,” Romeis comments. “The recent addition of a pale ash frame with ivory leather rather than walnut and black leather makes it instantly more feminine. This softer feel can slide right into a lighter, airy room.” With so many options available today, design connoisseurs and relaxation-lovers alike can find the perfect Eames chair for their space.