Charles Eames asks “How is it going to look in ten years?” Posted February 10, 2020 by Daniel Ostroff

Hugh DePree, a CEO of Herman Miller, who worked closely with Charles and Ray Eames, told a story about Charles Eames, which he felt summed up the Eames approach to furniture design.

Hugh DePree and Charles Eames

In his book, “Business as Unusual: The People and Principles of Herman Miller,” DePree noted: “Once, in discussing the design of Herman Miller’s New York showroom, the words ‘good design’ were used. Charles Eames said, ‘Don’t give us that good design crap. You never hear us talk about that. The real questions are: Does it solve a problem? Is it serviceable? How is it going to look in ten years?'”

Because Charles’s statement is so important to understanding the Eames approach to design, the portion of Hugh DePree’s book that includes this anecdote is the final text in An Eames Anthology.

That these were not mere words from Charles Eames is evident from the Eames approach to furniture design. Eames designs are not “black boxes,” with no user-serviceable parts. One key way that Charles and Ray addressed the questions, “Is it serviceable?” and “How is it going to look in ten years?” was to make sure all of the parts of their designs are easily accessible.

Here is a Herman Miller schematic for the Eames 670 Lounge Chair. All of the parts have clear connections to one another, and the parts can be easily accessed and discerned. The parts are numbered for ease of identification by Herman Miller Customer Service. If you have an authentic Eames Lounge Chair by Herman Miller, whether it is 50 years old, or 15 years old, you can still get replacement parts from Herman Miller.

That the “serviceability” aspects of Eames designs were fundamental, is evident in this earliest Eames Office graphic on the chair. At the very beginning, Charles and Ray presented this design with a schematic to reveal the essence of the chair.

Herman Miller also offers in house repair and restoration services. You can access this service by contacting any authorized Herman Miller retailer.

Here, you can read about how Herman Miller provided service for a 50-year-old Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman so that it can begin its third chapter with a new generation of the same design-loving New York family.