This side chair is one of two new fiberglass chairs Charles and Ray Eames designed in 1961, inspired by a request from Alexander Girard, who needed seating for his new Manhattan restaurant, La Fonda Del Sol. Some collectors call these “La Fonda” chairs, after the restaurant where they were first installed.
Herman Miller offered this model and the Arm Chair to all of their customers for more than 12 years.
Because Girard wanted chairs with seat backs no higher than dining table tops, Charles and Ray Eames designed these with a lower back than their original molded fiberglass chairs. Along with the new shells, Charles and Ray devised a new contract base, which combined all of the functions of a contract base in two symmetrical forms that could be joined together. The four vertical elements featured lightweight construction while still providing strength and stability to the solid cast.
The example illustrated is upholstered in its original Charcoal Gray Naugahyde. It is a 1960s vintage example photographed in 2010, courtesy of J.F. Chen.
When a new La Fonda Del Sol opened at a different location, NY Magazine reviewed it, with this description of the original restaurant:
If you are going to reprise a restaurant from the city’s dashing culinary past, you could do a lot worse than Joe Baum’s fabulous, Mad Men–era, three-martini-lunch spot, La Fonda del Sol. The original restaurant opened on the ground floor of the Time-Life Building in 1960, shortly after Baum had rolled out his famous over-the-top flop, the Forum of the Twelve Caesars, and his great masterpiece, The Four Seasons. Baum was the inventor of the theme restaurant, and La Fonda’s theme was Latin America (the name means “Inn of the Sun”), complete with a blue-tiled bar; tall, decorative, custom-made sangria pitchers; and special La Fonda chairs, built for the room’s designer, Alexander Girard, by his colleagues Charles and Ray Eames.
The original La Fonda del Sol served an array of stoutly reimagined Pan-Latino favorites, like stuffed Argentine beef and a delicate midtown version of lechoncito asada (suckling pig on a spit).