The classic Eames Lounge Chair was designed by Charles and Ray Eames to improve on something that already existed. The same kind of thinking still prevails at Vitra, which is now relaunching the fabric-upholstered version of the Lounge Chair. Slightly less-well known than the chair, the story behind it began already in the late 1950s.
WHEN SOMETHING IS SAID to fit like a glove, the image that first comes to mind is that of a skillfully lined and carefully stitched handmade leather glove.
In 1956, when designing the Eames Lounge Chair, the designer couple Charles and Ray Eames were also thinking about something worn on a hand: a baseball glove. The starting point for the process was redesigning the traditional English leather club chair with the focus on high-quality materials and uncompromising craftsmanship.
Inspired by the receptive look of the baseball glove, the Lounge Chair was designed to be an improved, elegant version of the traditional, sturdy leather armchairs popular at the time – but even more comfortable.
After numerous experiments with different materials and techniques, the flexible and contouring structure of the chair was achieved using molded plywood, padding and leather that softens and gains beautiful patina in use. The five-pointed aluminum base was equipped with a swivel mechanism, and a matching Lounge Ottoman was created for putting the feet up to maximize comfort.
The prototype of the chair found its place in Eames House, which served as Charles and Ray’s home, studio and test laboratory of sorts. Eames House was the place where the couple tested their designs in everyday use. Eventually, the first Lounge Chair became such an integral part of their living room that it was left as is in the same place where visitors can now admire it almost 70 years later.
Experiments with fabric
Fabric-upholstered versions of the Eames Lounge Chair were already made during the design stage, but they were only produced for a few years in the late 1950s. Just as the classic leather-upholstered version, they embodied Charles and Ray’s idea of combining different colors, shapes and textures to achieve something extremely comfortable and inviting.
Rare footage of the first fabric-upholstered Lounge Chairs shows how great an impact the choice of upholstery material has on the character of the chair: the soft wool fabric looks warm and inviting and the chair perfect for curling up in.
Alternative to leather upholstery
In 2023, Vitra relaunched the fabric-upholstered version of the Eames Lounge Chair and an ottoman. This version of the Lounge Chair meets today’s growing demand for different material options and combinations.
Nowadays, you can create a unique chair by choosing your favorites from a selection of sustainably grown wood species, finishes and vegetable tanned leather in a variety of colors – not to forget the new choice of the wool fabric called Nubia. The soft wool-blend fabric is extremely abrasion resistant and easy to keep clean. If necessary, the covers made of the Nubia fabric can also be removed and thus even replaced with new ones.
Assembled in 47 steps
Eames Lounge Chair offers a perfect combination of comfort, high-quality materials and excellent craftsmanship. The Lounge Chairs are still manufactured by Vitra in the same uncompromising way as Charles and Ray Eames originally designed. Most of the manufacturing stages are manual, and the different components are assembled carefully in 47 steps.
The new perspective on design, experimentation with materials and uncompromising craftsmanship resulted in an armchair that is as relevant today as it was almost 70 years ago when first introduced. The collaboration that began in 1957 between Vitra and Charles & Ray Eames still continues, now between Vitra and Eames Office representing the Eames family. The chair's story is getting new chapters with Vitra, and the Eames Lounge Chair remains one of the most beloved design classics.
Vitra Sessions: Eames
VITRA SESSIONS is a free digital event that you can join and watch directly on Vitra's website. The session, which focuses on the versatile production of the Eameses, will be released on Thursday, October 19, 2023.
In this half-hour session, their grandchildren, Eames Demetrios and Lucia Dewey Atwood, provide an exclusive tour of the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. Other highlights include exploring the Eames collection at the Vitra Design Museum and a look at how Vitra maintains its classics.
More Eames favorites
Text: Jenna Kiuru Images: Vitra
Featured products may not be available worldwide.