DATE - 1951

When Charles and Ray Eames were working on bringing the Eames molded plastic side chairs to market, they faced so many challenges to make a durable side chair that they took the same form as the side chair and decided to produce it out of welded steel wires. The steel wires form a structure on which the upholstery can be attached. 

Eames Wire Chairs

Charles Eames described the inspiration for the Eames Wire Chairs: “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.”

The upholstered pad which goes on the wire shell is made by a production technique developed by the Eames Office and is easily removed, making the pad interchangeable.

Long before “sustainability” became a watchword for consumers and manufacturers, in 1951, Charles and Ray Eames introduced comfortable, upholstered furniture with easily repairable, easily replaceable upholstery. The wire shell, the same form, and shape as the fiberglass side shell, was a structure to support the pads. The first pads developed were of one piece, covering the entire wire shell, and these were not inexpensive. Ironically, the version of these chairs that have proven the most popular, the two-piece pad chairs, which the public refers to as “Bikini chairs,” were originally developed as a lower-cost alternative to the full, one-piece pads.

Ray explained to a friend years later that what the public calls “the bikini” chair because of its appearance was in practice the end product of their process of removing as much as they could of the upholstery while still providing comfort where it counted.

There were six different versions of bases, whereby they could make chairs to meet six different seating needs. A pivot model of desk height; a dining or desk height model on a wood and wire structure; a dining or desk height model on a wire structure; a rocker model on a wood and wire structure; a lounge model on a cross rod base; and a very low model on a wire structure.

The Eames Wire Chair is still made by Herman Miller and Vitra.

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