The Chair in Charles Eames’s Office Posted September 9, 2016 by Daniel Ostroff
Visitors to Schaudepot, the newest building at the Vitra Design Museum (VDM), can now see Charles Eames’s personal office, just as it was when he passed away in 1978.
Charles Eames’s 1978 office as it appears now at the Vitra Design Museum. Contents of the office on loan to VDM from the Eames family collection.
Charles’s desk was designed by George Nelson, the Design Director of Herman Miller, who recruited Charles and Ray to the company. In the foreground on the left hangs an antique Hopi Indian Dance Crown. Below it, on top of an Eames Storage Unit, are a miniature Thonet chair model and a black and white checkerboard ashtray by renowned Swedish designer Stig Lindberg.
Charles’s chair is an Eames Intermediate Chair, which he and Ray introduced in 1968. Eames Intermediate Chairs are described in the 1970 Herman Miller catalog as “…good solutions for moderately priced office seating. Frame, arms, and base are bright polished aluminum. Bright polished arms are furnished with arm rests of black leather. Upholsteries are available in a variety of fabrics and combinations. When a combination is chosen, the top surface of the seat only will be in the same specified fabric. Seat boxing and welts will be in the same material as specified for the back.”
Unlike many of Charles and Ray’s designs, the Eames Intermediate Chair is not part of a furniture group. Aside from upholstery options, the only configurations for the design were with or without arms and a stationary or tilt-swivel seat. The unique cast aluminum frame was only suitable for a desk chair. It had some very interesting details, as seen in the images below.
The horizontal bar of the chair’s arms is fitted through holes in the vertical parts of the frame.
The “antler” shaped stretcher under the seat fits through holes in the horizontal portions of the frame.
Charles and Ray called this design “intermediate” because it was intermediate in price and weight compared to other Eames chairs. It weighed more, had more padding, and was more expensive than the Eames Aluminum Desk Chair. It cost less than the Eames Executive Chair because it was not as heavy, and didn’t have that design’s multiple hand-tufted pads.
In 1973, the Eames Office and Herman Miller decided to discontinue production of the Eames Intermediate Chair. It was made redundant by the success of the Eames Soft Pad Group of 1969. The versatile Eames Soft Pad Group included two version of an upholstered desk chair, one with a low back, one with a high back, and a lounge chair and ottoman, all built with similar structural and upholstery details.
Those who come across an Eames Intermediate Chair on the vintage market have found a real treasure. It is more common to find them in Europe than America because they were manufactured by Herman Miller International, a Herman Miller venture run by the Felhbaums, who now run Vitra. Today, the company has the exclusive license for Eames furniture in Europe and the Middle East.
Images of the Eames Intermediate Chair photographed by Grant Taylor and gifted to the Eames Office by J.F. Chen. Copyright Eames Office, LLC.