The Eames Chair

“A cross between a Mercedes-Benz and a Barcalounger…” is how The New York Times described Charles and Ray Eames iconic lounge chair on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2006. The article went on to say,”… it also resembles a beetle flipped on its back.”

Hollywood Beginnings, A Storybook Ending
This classic chair, which has been in production continuously at Herman Miller since its debut in 1956, had a Hollywood beginning – literally.  In 1955 while Charles Eames was working as a second unit director on “The Spirit of St. Louis,” a movie about Charles Lindbergh, he noticed director Billy Wilder taking naps on the set on a narrow board stretched between two sawhorses.  Eames and wife Ray went to work on designing a more comfortable recliner and ended up with a segmented throne of molded rosewood ply, black leather and down.

The finished chair made its national television debut in 1956.  The now cringe-inducing video shows Home Show hostess Arlene Francis gushing over Charles and condescending to Ray – “She’s behind the man, but terribly important!” — while Ray smiles daggers.

Charles and Ray Eames made a gift of the first lounge chair to Billy Wilder and the piece went on to become one of their defining creations.  A few years later Wilder’s nap inspired a second piece, the Eames Chaise first produced in 1968.  It was made 18″ wide to keep the napper from falling into a deep sleep – and to keep visitors to Wilder’s office from thinking it was a casting couch. “If you have a girlfriend shaped like a Giacometti it would be ideal,” Wilder said.

Image Sources: Eames Office and Herman Miller