Few pieces of furniture invoke their time period better than the famous Eames lounge chair and ottoman. The moulded plywood shell and lush black leather upholstery make this chair an icon of mid-20th century design. Since its introduction in 1956, the chair has been in continuous production in the U.S. by the Herman Miller Company of Zeeland, Michigan. Designed by Charles Eames and his wife, Ray, it was an immediate success. Both new and vintage chairs are sought after by fans of modern design.
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Look for a label affixed to the bottom of the lounge seat. Chairs manufactured between 1956 and the 1970s have a round white and gold Herman Miller label. A black rectangular Herman Miller label was used between the 1970s and the 1990s. Chairs manufactured since the 1990s have a silver rectangular Herman Miller label.
Identify the type of wood used on the shell of the lounge. The original Eames lounge chairs and ottomans were veneered in Brazilian rosewood. According to Herman Miller, rosewood was discontinued in 1991 due to environmental concerns. Since 1991, Eames chairs have been manufactured in walnut, cherry and palisander, a wood similar to rosewood but not as intensely coloured.
Examine the stuffing used in the cushions, if possible. Original cushions from 1956 and the next few years were filled with 100 per cent down and duck feathers. After that, most chairs were stuffed with a mixture of foam and down feathers until about 1971. Since then, Eames lounge chairs and ottomans have been filled with a mixture of foam and fibre fill.
Locate the clips that hold the cushions to the wooden shells. If they are circular and silver in colour, your chair was manufactured before 1971. Chairs made since 1971 have long, thin, black clips.
Examine the foot glides on the matching ottoman, if you have it. The earliest ottomans have rubber boot-like glides that push on instead of the later adjustable, screw-in glides.
Count the number of screws holding the armrests to the body of the chair. According to Bradley Downs, 1956 production chairs can be identified by the existence of three screws securing the armrests. Later on, two screws were used.
Tips and warnings
- The first Eames lounge chairs and ottomans were made by Charles and Ray Eames as a gift for Billy Wilder, the famous Hollywood director of "Some Like It Hot" and "Irma la Douce."
- Don't rip a hole in your cushions to examine the fillings--you risk diminishing the value of your chair.
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