eames soft pad chair

The Eames Soft Pad Chairs are some of the most recognizable and celebrated chairs in the history of industrial design. Built by Charles and Ray Eames toward the end of their careers, it makes sense that they’re so popular and critically acclaimed. Nearly everything Charles and Ray made has been put in a museum, so great was their impact on the world of industrial design, and so strong were their creative instincts. They made gorgeous, innovative, groundbreaking furniture for decades, and out of all the dozens of inimitable products they made, the Eames Soft Pad Chairs can stand proud as some of the most enduring and forward-thinking.

But why was the series of chairs so well loved? And what kinds of innovations did their design introduce into the world of industrial design and interior decor? What went into the overall design of the Eames Soft Pad Chairs?

The base design for the Soft Pad series was the Aluminum Group that Charles and Ray had created years before. The Aluminum Group started out as an exercise to make some great outdoor furniture that could also be used indoors, and much of the technological innovation present in the Eames Soft Pad Chairs is due to the research done to try and create chairs that would work well both indoors and out. Eventually Herman Miller and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames decided that the Aluminum Group had a ton of potential as purely indoor furniture, and they upholstered it in leather rather than mesh. This was the beginning of the creation story for the Soft Pad Chairs.

What made original Aluminum Group so attractive was their unique shape, their polished aluminum supports, and their upholstery. This has all remained for the Soft Pad Chairs. Both groups feature beautiful curving backs, both high and low depending on which type of chair in the group it belongs to, and a base and structure made of aluminum. The curve in the back, much of which is in the part of your chair that accommodates the lower back of the user, is instrumental in making the chairs as comfortable as they are. Charles and Ray Eames were some of the first designers to realize that for a chair to be truly comfortable, all the parts of the back must have adequate support, even the lower, or lumbar region. Now that knowledge is taken for granted, but at the time the Aluminum Group and the Soft Pad Chairs were forward-thinking (and they still are, in other ways). The curve of the chair goes inward at the lower back, and that gives that region special and especially needed support. But another big part of what makes the chairs so comfortable was discovered when they were still going to be outdoor furniture.

Many outdoor pieces of furniture use techniques seen in a hammock. They attach material over a gulf, and then let the user sit in the sling that ensues. The Eames Soft Pad Chairs use this same technique, but on a higher and more thoughtful level. The chairs all have a pair of aluminum “ribs” that range all the way up the back and all the way down the seat. Between these two ribs the leather of the upholstery is tightly strung (but not too tightly). The strength of the chair is created in this process, and not only that, two comfort pockets are created, one in the back and one in the seat. These pockets are not the indifferent slings of the hammock, however; they are very carefully created and calibrated to optimally comfortable and supportive for the user. This kind of advanced thinking along the lines of comfort is one of the many things that earned the Eames Soft Pad Chairs a place at the table of great industrial furniture designs. While it’s one among many, it might be the most important.

But there’s one other big advantage that the chairs have in terms of comfort, and it’s made obvious by their name. They have thick, wonderfully supportive and comfortable padding, upholstered and arranged in individual pads that range up and down the chair back and seat. The Aluminum Group never had anything like that; it relied solely on the comfort pockets created by the ribs of aluminum. The Eames Soft Pad Chairs represent a serious update of the Aluminum Group, and not at all a simple cosmetic upgrade to snag some more money. These are serious chairs, and they’re seriously comfortable and beautiful.

Another very important aspect of their design is that they’re flexible. Not always on an individual basis, because there are chairs in the series that were crafted for highly specific purposes. But as a whole, the series can fill just about any need you could have for your home or office. It includes a lounge chair, a management chair, a side chair, and an executive chair. All of them are different and have different things to offer the user, and that’s one of the great strengths of the series. It’s comprised of variations on a theme, but they’re real variations; they aren’t there just for show and variety, they’re there because they can solve a lot of different problems for buyers and home owners, as well as office dwellers.

Variety, high-tech comfort, and beautiful materials that fit well in most any room; that’s a classic design, and it’s no wonder that the Eames Soft Pad Chairs fit that description to a tee. There’s a reason Charles and Ray are considered by many to be the best furniture design team that ever lived. Each chair fits into your life in a different way, and that’s what makes the series as a whole so uniquely flexible.

Smart Furniture

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