The Eames Fiberglass Chair, launched almost 70 years ago, was the world's first mass-produced plastic chair. Thanks to new production methods, Charles and Ray Eames' fiberglass chair is back in the Vitra selection after a break of over two decades.
IN 1948, the American designer couple Charles and Ray Eames came second in the 'International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design' organized by the New York Museum of Modern Art. Their entry was a chair consisting of a shell-like seat with different legs that could be attached to it. However, the original metal chair proved to be too expensive for mass-production, so the Eameses began to look for alternative materials.
The answer turned out to be fiberglass, a material that was entirely new to the furniture industry and originally developed by the US Army. The durable, inexpensive and mouldable fiberglass enabled a completely new way to design and manufacture furniture. Instead of a separate backrest and seat, the Eames Fiberglass Chair was made of a one-piece shell that could be combined with a range of different base options.
Previously, fiberglass had only been used uncolored. The Eameses spent long days at the facory, mixing various hues and testing them on chair prototypes.
Charles and Ray Eames took upon themselves to harness fiberglass for a new type of use, and also dyeing it for furniture purposes, because previously it had only been used uncolored. The couple spent long days at the factory, mixing various hues and testing them on chair prototypes.
"What I really want is a black with feeling," said Charles Eames about his vision of a dark hue, eventually called elephant hide grey. The range now made available again by Vitra consists of six original colors developed by the Eameses: elephant hide grey, navy blue, parchment, raw umber, red orange and sea foam green.
Entering production in 1950, the Eames Fiberglass Chair was accepted in the New York MoMA the same year, becoming a design icon in the following decades – the chairs were seen in homes, schools, offices and public spaces throughout the world. Because of their rigidity, fiberglass chairs have also been popular in sports stadiums.
The iconic Eames Fiberglass Chair was a familiar sight in homes, schools, offices and public spaces around the world.
The environmentally conscious 1990s was a turning point in the history of the Eames chair: Vitra stopped producing fiberglass chair and launched a more ecological and recyclable Eames Plastic Chair, with the seat made of polypropylene. However, Vitra continued to develop fiberglass production methods, and after more than 20 years, the Eames Fiberglass Chair's manufacturing methods have been fine-tuned to be safe both in terms of the environment and health. The new fiberglass seat is also recyclable.
Eames Fiberglass Chair and Eames Plastic Chair fit perfectly around the same table, and create together an extensive, versatile family. The chairs have similar silhouettes but distinct characters: the feel of the fiberglass is sturdier, and the fibers criss-crossing on its surface make each chair unique, emphasizing the original colours created by the Eameses.
Finnish Design Shop's selection has all the six colors with two different base options: The DSW chair has legs made of maple, while the legs of the DSR chair (also known as the Eiffel chair) has a metal frame. Other bases may be ordered via Finnish Design Shop's Customer Service.
Charles & Ray Eames
• Charles Eames (1907–1978) and Ray Eames (1912–1988) are among the foremost American designers of the 20th century.
• The Eames Office in Los Angeles contributed to the fields of design, architecture, graphic design, visual arts and film.
• Built in 1949, the couple's home, Eames House, is nowadays a museum and one of the landmarks of modern architecture.
• Best-known work: Eames Lounge Chair, Eames Plastic Chair, Wire Chair, LTR Occasional Table, Hang It All coat rack.
Please check the availability of Vitra's Eames Fiberglass Chair to your shipping location on the product page.
Text: Nora Uotila Images: Vitra and Eames Office LLC.