OVERALL RATING: 10 of 10
The Eames Molded Plastic Armchair is one of the most famous creations in the history of modern design. You’ve no doubt seen countless copies of the Side Chair version (it looks a bit like an egg) in elementary schools, auditoriums and lobbies throughout the country. The more adult, more sophisticated Armchair version brings to the table exactly what the name implies – arm rests and bit more in the comfort department. It also has a more sophisticated look, with the entire structure of the seat composed of a single plastic mold that bends and curves with grace and singular aplomb.
|Designed and built by Charles and Ray Eames, this is one the premiere chairs of the 20th century, built by the undisputed greatest design couple of the same century.The model for the Eames Molded Plastic Chairs, both side and armchair versions, is the earlier Eames Moled Plywood Chair. The molded plywood chair is iconic – an instantly recognizable classic of American design that combined technical craftsmanship, unfettered creativity, and amazing new technologies (pioneered by Charles and Ray Eames) to produce a comfortable, radical, beautiful chair. When the new age material of plastic came along, it was clear to Charles and Ray that here was a brand new material perfectly suited to the kind of design they had been making with wood for years.|
With this new material, however, they would be able to create single molds, single pieces of “chair,” rather than have to make several and meld them together. This was a material that could withstand weight and pressure upon it’s curved support edges. And with that realization, the marriage of designer and material was complete. The product remains one of the most exciting and important pieces of modern design in America.
Charles and Ray Eames are two of the most iconic designers who ever built a stick of furniture. Their partnership is legendary in the annals of world and American design, and the products they created have had an extraordinarily long life in the homes, offices and public spaces of the American people. The things they made that were beautiful in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s are still beautiful today, still sought after, and still used as furniture. That’s the definition of timeless.
The two designers got their start by creating the Molded Plywood Chair, the pre-cursor to the Eames Molded Plastic Armchair. The wooden chair was forged in a homemade device called Kazaam!, which used so much energy and power that Charles and Ray often blew out the lights in their little apartment. The duo spent years perfecting their technique and their design, and in the end critical and popular adulation was their just reward. They went on to forge a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with manufacturing giant Herman Miller, where they produced most of their finest work. It was at during this time period that the Eames created the Eames Lounge Chair, the Eames Aluminum Group Chairs, the Eames Dining Table, and many many more still-relevant pieces.
Lovers of all art forms and masters of many, the couple also made films, archived vast reams of photography, and made ingenious toys for children. They were a rightfully celebrated team in their time, and their reputation has only grown with the passing decades. The Eames Molded Plastic Chair is one of their crowning achievements.
The style of the chair is one of it’s signal accomplishments. While the chairs were designed and built many decades ago by designers living and working in a specific milieu they are not dated in the least. This is a quality shared by most of the work that Charles and Ray Eames did. While all of the furniture they built is clearly of a time, they retain a classic and modern feel that works in any contemporary home or office. Even the material chose for the piece, plastic, has not gone out of fashion or become a relic of a forgotten or distant time period. The material, the design, and the style are all just as relevant to Americans today as they were when they first debuted to great critical acclaim and popular adoption.
The chair is extremely curvy, with lots of undulation in the material. At the time, being able to do a single shell with a single piece of material wasn’t done, but it was a big dream of Charles and Ray to be able to accomplish it. Their wooden lounge chair, molded and flexible as it was, was never able to be produced as a single piece. All that changed with the invention of plastic. The result is a contoured chair unfettered by the bonds of engineering. Because it was strong enough to handle pressure and flexible enough to form any shape, Charles and Ray let their imaginations run wild. The product is a gorgeous chair, soft as silk in shape and line, and the culmination of more than a decade of planning and technological breath-throughs.
The very idea of a chair built of molded plastic was space-age in 1948, the year the chairs first came out. But for Charles and Ray Eames it was a natural progression from their work on the molded lounge chair, and a dream coming true – the dream of the single piece shell.
Because plastic was both flexible and strong (unlike wood which was generally one or the other) Charles and Ray were able for the first time to mold the seat, sides, back and arms of the chair with a single piece of plastic. This is something they had wanted to do for years, and the results of their labor showed exactly why – it made the chair more unified, for beautiful, and more complete. It was simple, elegant, and gorgeous.
Charles and Ray were two designers always on the cutting edge of technology. Oftentimes, if a product they needed didn’t exist, they simply invented it. Such was the case with Kazaam!, their first attempt at molding plywood into a workable chair.
As a new kind of chair, with a new kind of material and a new kind of manufacturing process, the Eames Molded Plastic Armchair was a wild success. And it still is today.