Eames Chair Glides Posted February 8, 2016 by Daniel Ostroff
“The details are not the details; they make the product.”
– Charles Eames
Even the smallest of details were important to Charles and Ray Eames. Consider the glides on the bottoms of their chair legs. The husband-and-wife team didn’t think glides were incidental to a chair’s design; glides allow people to move chairs more easily while also protecting the floors from scratching.
Part of paying attention to the details included a continual interest in “making designs better,” as Charles was quoted as saying in a 1960 newspaper interview.
In an effort to offer the best possible Eames DCM, they improved the glides three times between 1946, when the design was first introduced, and 1958.
First, they outfitted the DCM with metal and rubber glides called “Domes of Silence,” which were affixed by a screw that was secured into a small drilled hole at the end of each leg.
Over time, some of the “Domes of Silence” malfunctioned: The metal sometimes rusted, and from time to time the screw came loose or snapped off. Fixing a “Dome of Silence” glide was a real problem. If the glide came off, you often had to drill out the old screw before replacing it, which was an exceedingly difficult task. “Domes of Silence” glides that didn’t break could still develop other issues. The rubber on this type of glide could also get compressed over time or crack and flake off.
Starting circa 1954, Charles and Ray sourced a new glide—the so-called “boot glide.” This adaptation conferred a couple of advantages: Boot glides fit over the chair legs, eliminating the need to drill into the DCM’s legs, and, if a boot glide came off, it could be reapplied without the use of any tools.
However, boot glides weren’t entirely ideal; if one slipped off, it was sometimes misplaced.
Finally, a new glide was introduced, announced first in the 1958 Herman Miller Catalog. Made from nylon, it had a built-in pivot so that, with just a slight amount of pressure, it would adjust to varying floor surfaces. The glide’s self-leveling quality was as important to Charles and Ray as its increased durability. Although it required that the DCM legs be drilled out again, this type of glide is virtually unbreakable.
The 1958 nylon glide is still used by Herman Miller and Vitra today because of its proven reliability. DCMs with a chrome finish are offered with white nylon glides, while DCMs with a black finish on the metal are equipped with black nylon glides.
The vernacular term for these glides is “pound in,” because they are so tightly fitted that they have to be pounded into place; however, it’s worth the extra effort. Once attached, most of these “better,” more durable glides stay right where they should be for decades to come.
Photo credit: Graham Mancha