DATE - 1956

There is no denying the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, also known as the 670 and 671, is a luxury item. Still, the design concept has all of the Eames hallmarks, most notably, standardization of parts and humble use of plywood, although with an ultra-luxurious premium face veneer of fine wood. The lounge chair is constructed of three molded plywood shells and tailored leather cushions mounted on a cast aluminum base that pivots. 

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman combines traditional quality and comfort with the unique Eames technology for molding and bonding wood to rubber shock mounts for flexibility. Often referred to as a twentieth-century interpretation of the nineteenth-century English club chair, this seating instantly became a symbol of comfort. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is one of the most significant designs of the 20th century—exceptional craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail have made it a functional eye-catcher in homes (and museums) worldwide.

The molded plywood parts are constructed of hardwood plies assembled in a press under heat and pressure to form the shape. The exterior ply is made of any one of several premium face veneers offered. Counting the ottoman, with its own structural molded plywood shell, there are only two standard plywood parts: the two back panels are identical, and the chair and the ottoman seat are identical. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman are not inexpensive, but they do provide good value, and they would be much more expensive if the design wasn’t as well considered as it is in terms of standardized parts. In present dollars, the chairs sell for about the same as they once cost in 1956. These don’t depreciate the way most furniture does, and many are handed down from generation to generation as beloved heirlooms. We regularly hear from clients who have inherited, and first-time buyers who are pleased to have a chair to create their own family legacy.  

The cushions are removable and can be reversed in the event they become compacted. The two back cushions can be reversed individually from top to bottom. The chair seat cushion and the ottoman cushion can be reversed in the same way and even be switched, one for the other.

The very first graphic produced by the Eames Office illustrated this chair as a collection of its component parts. Charles and Ray were justifiably proud of having made a luxury seating option out of very few parts and one that adhered to their commitment to offering products with a long life of service. After many decades, because of the direct and obvious ways in which the parts were connected, customers could easily repair or replace any part as needed.

An exploded view diagram of the Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman.

To give you an important perspective on this timeless classic, regularly identified as an icon of modern design, consider the fact that in 2006, on the fiftieth anniversary of this chair’s introduction, an entire book was written by design scholars about it, and several museums hosted an exhibition dedicated to it: The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design. Merrell published the book, and the exhibition was first presented at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and eventually traveled to the New York Museum of Art and Design.

The chair, which has become a status symbol and a design landmark, is also a very comfortable refuge for mind and body. Charles and Ray Eames were aware of this end result, and they often talked about their intention with this chair of providing a soft seating buffer against the stresses of modern life.

By the time the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were introduced on national U.S. prime time television, presented by Charles and Ray personally on the Arlene Francis “Home” Show, the Eameses already had three successful lines of economical, durable chair systems in the marketplace: chairs of molded plywood, molded plastic and upholstered steel wire. Looking back, we can see that this luxury design was inevitable.  

“The leather cushions do have built-in wrinkles to start with, but that is a clue that spells comfort to come, like the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” 

Charles & Ray Eames

Charles usually explained that he had the idea to devise a modern version of an English club chair. He and Ray wrote the text for the hang tag that accompanied early examples: 

 “The upholstered lounge chair & ottoman are a combination intended to give comfort for long periods of time such as reading or conversation after dinner or just relaxing and thinking. Size and relationships of the parts are most important, I suppose, but the fact that all of the parts are allowed a bit of movement in relation to each other and that both main units are mounted on swivels gives the freedom that contributes to relaxation. Another thing we came to realize in our search for this kind of comfort is that feathers and down are pretty good materials. Like few others, they give one the feeling of settling in, and when you get up, feathers and down do not instantly pop back into place as though you had never been there. The leather cushions do have built-in wrinkles to start with, but that is a clue that spells comfort to come, like the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” 

eames lounge chair and ottoman in the Eames House.

Playboy magazine reviewed the chair in ecstatic terms: “Eames’ (new) design [the 670 and 671] sank the sitter into a voluptuous luxury that few mortals since Nero have known: a broad, deep lounge chair, its cushions covered in soft, wrinkly leather and filled not with the uniformly pneumatic foam rubber so favored in modern design, but with feathers and down – “to give the feeling of settling in,” says Eames. “The sense of sheer amplitude is magnified by broadly curved molded frames in luxurious rosewood veneer.”

Currently, and for the last few years, we’ve adjusted with our clients’ changing nature. In the 21st century, people are bigger and taller than ever before. Herman Miller and Vitra now offer both our classic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman and a “Tall” version of the Lounge Chair, which has the exact same proportions as the original but is longer and deeper.

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