How to Recognize an Original Eames Aluminum Chair

Written by graham rix
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How to Recognize an Original Eames Aluminum Chair
Modern office chair design owes much to the Eames aluminium chair of the 1950s. (office chair image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from Fotolia.com)

By the time Charles Eames designed his famous aluminium chair for the home of industrialist J. Irwin Miller in the mid 1950s, he was already established as America's most trailblazing furniture designer. Trained as an architect, Eames first came to prominence in a 1940 competition for "Organic Design for Home Furnishings" sponsored by New York's Museum of Modern Art. Six years later, the Herman Miller company started offering Eames furniture commercially. The aluminium chair went into production in 1958 and, as of 2010, remains available as an "Aluminum Group" series.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Examine the exposed, metallic parts of the chair. The base should be made of high-quality die-cast aluminium and the back from a pair of long, curving ribs. Being aluminium, the whole frame should be surprisingly lightweight.

  2. 2

    Sit in the chair. Rather than a rigid shell, you should feel a springy "support pocket" -- this is one of the original Eames aluminium chair's key technical achievements.

  3. 3

    Look at the fabric. Intended for outdoor use, the original Eames aluminium chair was covered in a stretchable mesh. This was discontinued shortly after the chair went into production, although in 2001 a new translucent mesh was introduced. Since the early 1970s, the aluminium chair has been upholstered in a range of "Soft Pad" styles, in fabric or leather with ribbing at 2-inch intervals.

Tips and warnings

  • When buying a new Eames aluminium chair from Herman Miller, keep the receipts, as they will be extremely useful should you wish to sell it later.
  • Beware reproductions and pale imitations. If buying an Eames chair second-hand, ask the vendor for supporting documentation.

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