Eames chairs are as popular today as they were in the mid-century, but one thing has changed: prices. These popular chairs are making a big comeback. They fit very well into our modern metal house designs and we have been impressed with the quality we found in replica pieces.
Consumers looking to get the look without the full ticket price can find that the best Eames chair replicas are nearly identical in style and quality to the original. Because they’re new and offer the same great look and functionality at a lower cost, these lounge chairs are experiencing a reinnasance.
What are Eames Chairs?
Eames chairs were a concept that was designed by Charles and Ray Eames. The power couple helped create some of the most defining architecture and styles in the 20th century.
The husband and wife also created the Eames house.
But what the couple is really known for is the Eames lounge chair.
Eames chairs come in different styles, and this includes:
- Comfortable lounge chairs
- Molded armchairs
- Office chair variants
Sleek in design, these chairs came out in 1950 with a molded fiberglass armchair. The couple designed the chair for a competition that was sponsored by MoMA called the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.
You have to go back to the times to fully understand why the chair came into creation.
The Eames chair was truly a product of the time. The 1950s was a time when families had limited financial resources, and even material resources were very limited after World War II. People wanted quality, lasting furniture, and the Eames chair was able to meet these needs.
If you look back at the material of the earliest form of these chairs, you’ll find that the chair consisted of:
- Aluminum base
- Molded plastic
- Fabric cushions
People loved the design of these chairs, and then you started to see them being offered with a variety of new options. The chairs started to offer different options for all of the key chair features:
Eventually, the chairs moved from the household to college lounges and sports stadiums. The original chair was a hit, and it gave birth to the Eames lounge chair which was released a few years early.
1956: Eames Lounger and Ottoman
The original chair was a major success, and the Eames family was already developing new chairs that can further leave their mark on the world. The Herman Miller company released the Eames Ottoman and Eames Lounge chair in 1956
The designers wanted this chair to do one thing: be inviting.
Charles Eames claims that they wanted the chair to look warm and receptive, and the chair may even look well-used. The lounge chairs contained a few distinct materials that offer that used “glove” look that Charles was trying to convey:
- Molded plywood that was heated, bent and shaped
- Leather upholstery
Comfortable and professional in style, these chairs are still being made and sold today. People cannot get enough of the Eames lineup of chairs, but there is one more chair that came out in 1958.
1958: Eames Aluminum Group
Eames Aluminum Group was the next step, and this was a collection of different office furniture that Charles and Ray created. The original release of the collection took place in 1958, but one chair left a mark in the collection: Task Chair.
The Task Chair had a lot of appeal, and it is considered the classic desk chair that has left its mark on office furniture today.
The chair had a mesh suspension back, similar to the chair I am using while typing away. The mesh suspension back was adapted for the office, and while the design was popular, there have been many versions released since the original.
Perhaps the most popular version of the Task Chair is the version with an aluminum frame and padded leather upholstery.
Why are Eames Chairs Popular?
Eames chairs are going on their 70th anniversary, and they still make headlines every year.
The chairs owe a lot of their popularity to the vast advertising that they initially received.
Arlene Francis introduced the Eames lounge chair on primetime television on her show called the Home Show, which helped drive interest in the chair even higher.
Today, you’ll find a variety of Eames lounge chair replicas. You’ll find that some of the replicas have placed their own twist on the chair. But the same function and design concepts have remained.
There’s a major demand for Eames:
- Lounge chair and ottoman
- Task chair
- Wire chair
- Rocking chair
- Molded fiberglass armchair
- Fiberglass shell chairs
- Molded plywood dining chair
Charles and Ray were very integral in their lineup of chairs being marketed and even in the materials they offered through Herman Miller. The chairs came in three main options:
But the couple insisted that a premium “best aucht” leather be recommended in catalogs. The couple sourced the leather from Scotland because of a special technique used by farmers at the time. Everyone was using barbed wire, which led to leather being marked.
Scotland farmers did not use barbed wire, so the leather was unmarked and of the highest quality.
It was this fine attention to detail that put these chairs into the spotlight, and it is this attention to detail that has helped the Eames lounge chair remain one of the most popular chairs in the world.
The Eames chair reproduction market is booming with opportunity, and we’re also seeing the ideal design trends helping keep these chairs popular today.
Our steel houses are a great choice for this mid-century style, and we also have to thank the mid-century modern movement as well.
What is the Mid-century Modern Movement?
The Mid-century modern movement, MCM, takes design concepts from 1933 to 1965 for everything from urban development to interior design and product design. Books have been written on the MCM movement, including Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s by Cara Greenberg.
The MCM movement includes the Grand Prix chairs, Diamond chairs, Egg chairs and of course, the Eames chairs, among many other iconic pieces of furniture.
And the world remains obsessed with this style. The MCM style was classy and unique, professional and functional, quality and evergreen in design. The 50s are back in style, and it is a style that people either love or hate.
Eames replicas have started to gain appeal because collectors began gobbling up furniture from this time period. An entire niche market of collectors started to purchase Eames chairs, and they drove prices higher as a result.
Even in 1994, you can find the Eames molded plywood folding screens for $10,000. Original chairs are still selling for $2,000 to over $9,000, or even higher in today’s market.
But now we’re seeing a revival of the MCM movement, as replicas are being created with similar quality at a much lower price.
Eames Replica Buying Guide
If you’re in the market for an Eames chair reproduction, you need to know what to look for when buying a replica. Some replicas skimp on quality or don’t adhere to the same design standards as the original manufacturer.
But other companies will produce high-end replicas that can be indistinguishable from originals.
What to Look for in an Eames Chair Reproduction
If you’re purchasing any type of replica, you need to ensure that the following points remain true:
- Size. The size of the replica should be similar if not exact to the original. Alterations to size will have an impact on the chair’s comfort and functionality. All aspects of the piece should be considered and measured, including how tall the piece is and how long the arms are if they exist.
- Materials. Similar, if not exact, materials should be used in the production of the replica. You may not find the same leather from Scotland being used in a replica, but a high-end leather from Italy or another known manufacturing country may suffice.
- Finishes. The finishes that are available should also be considered. Does the piece come with an original finish, or has the replica company started to experiment with alternative finish options?
Once you have looked at the specifics, it’s time to look at the specific piece you plan on purchasing. The Eames lounge chair will be our prime example. If you purchase the Eames lounge chair replica, you’ll want a replica that offers:
- Sizes that are about 32 – 33 inches from top to bottom. The arm length was just short of 33,” but anything up to 33” will not impact the comfort of the chair.
- Legs came in a standard of five, but there are rumors that some models had four legs. Any fewer legs will throw off the balance of the chair. The ottoman came standard with four legs.
- Reclining was a key feature that should also be present in replica chairs.
- Materials and finishes would come with leather and walnut in most cases. Match the finishes with original pieces to find the perfect timeless chair for your home or office.
- Screw exposure was a big no-no at the time, and Eames did everything that they could to hide their screws that held the chair together. This was key in keeping the professional look that the Eames family wanted.
- Ottoman inclusion is a must. The Eames lounge chair ottoman always came with the original for maximum comfort.
When replica companies start to tweak the original style or function of the chair, it starts to decline in quality. The chair should come with the same, or at the very least, similar qualities to the original so that the chair maintains both its physical function and aesthetic look.
The best replica companies do not offer just cheap products – they offer quality products. A common misconception is that a replica is a cheap product, but this is far from the truth. The right replica company will charge $1,400 to $1,800 for the Eames lounge chair replica.
There may be companies that sell their replicas for $850 or less, but you have to be very concerned about the quality of the piece at this price point.
A warranty should also be offered, and the warranty will be the only protection you have if the chair has a design flaw or doesn’t meet your quality standards. There is also the benefit of being able to have reviews in today’s modern world. Back in the 50s, it was much harder to purchase an item and be sure that it was good.
Reviews offer a helpful insight into the replica chairs that are being created, and they should never be overlooked before making a purchase.
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