The Eames Wire Chair is a unique iteration in the shell chair’s continuous evolution.
In the 1950s, Charles and Ray started experimenting in bent and welded wire. Inspired by trays, dress forms, and baskets, the Eames Office developed a number of pieces, including the wire version of the single-shell form.
The shell design combines transparent lightness with technological sophistication and is available in a variety of bases. The Wire Chair is available without upholstery, with a seat cushion, or with seat and back cushions. Due to its shape, the two-piece cushion is also known as the “Bikini” pad.
Below is an excerpt about the Eames Upholstered Wire Chair from an April 1958 article in Interiors magazine titled 3 Chairs/3 Records of the Design Process. Charles Eames, in his own words, describes how he and Ray developed the chair:
“It was in the most desperate hours, when there seemed to be no hope of getting the perfect molding for the reinforced polyester chair, that the upholstered wire chair was conceived—and in the meantime it began to look as though the thin molded shell really belong to the jet age. As far as furniture was concerned we were still at the Wright Brothers level.
[The side shell proved more difficult than the arm shell. In fact, the early production side shells cracked along the sides and later had to be redeveloped and made thicker in the areas where they were weakest. It is to this difficulty in developing non-cracking molded plastic side shells that Charles is referring.]
“So we thought we would go to the opposite extreme and do a molded, body-conforming shell depending on many, many connections—but connections that we as an industrial society were prepared to cope with on the production level. If you looked around you found these fantastic things being made of wire—trays, baskets, rat traps, using of a wire fabricating technique perfected over a period of many years. We looked into it and found that it was a good production technique and also a good use of material. Before the molded plastic chair had been solved, the molded wire chair was well under way.
“Meantime the upholstered wire chair brought with it some real attempts in another direction—towards mass production in upholstery—by fellows in our office.
“Don Albinson, who had been a student of mine at Cranbrook and who had worked even on the early model for the photographs we entered in the Organic Furniture Competition, took hold of this problem and developed some really ingenious techniques.
“Again we were at the point where the design and production of even the machinery for making the furniture was being done in our office. Jigs and fixtures for building up the upholstered pads were made and operated in the initial production stage by fellows in our office.”