The Eames Lounge Chair — A 20th Century Icon

Author—

Bryan Maniotakis

February 26, 2024

The Eames Lounge Chair — A 20th Century Icon

Chances are even if you haven’t heard the name Eames, you’ve still seen the iconic Eames Lounge Chair or a knockoff in movies, homes, or popular media. 

First designed in 1957, the Eames Lounge Chair has evolved little but continues to impress generations of sitters with its hardwood shell and inviting leather cushions. Today, you can purchase one of these pieces created by a designer featured in countless museums for the high price of more than $7,000.

But that price doesn’t just purchase you a chair, it gives you one of the most iconic pieces of design of the 20th century.

The chair was so wildly successful that it helped contribute to the producer Herman Miller's value at almost $3 billion today. And that doesn’t include the millions of dollars in profits knock-offs have earned. 

But the Eames Lounge Chair has patented designs that cannot be repeated, so expect a different level of comfort when buying a rip-off Eames. 

Exploring what makes the Eames Lounge Chair iconic, we’re going to explain how they’re designed, how to make it last, and how to spot a fake. So keep reading!

Herman Miller’s Eames Lounge Chair Design

Herman Miller was forged in the 1920s but tempered and hardened by its experience through the Great Depression. 

As people prized money for food and shelter — not necessarily artistic vision — the company pivoted. Mostly thanks to Charles and Ray Eames, a husband and wife duo who would go on to shake the design world of furniture, graphic design, and modern architecture. 

At the time, Herman Miller hired the two to lean into what would eventually become mid-century modern designs that created furniture with envisioned artistry and affordable functionality. The collaboration was wildly successful and not the last of its kind for Herman Miller (looking at the Noguchi coffee table.)

But its design isn’t beyond average human comprehension. 

When comparing the contradictions of the chair we’re able to understand more about why people are immediately drawn to it. 

Throughout the Great Depression, Herman Miller was testing ways to create their concave wooden shell. Eventually landing on layering strips of wood through glue, heat, and pressure, the wooden shapes were an innovation in a world that had only seen boxy wooden materials. 

And yet despite the wood grain, the cushy leather speaks to your brain — soft yet structured. Adding onto the soft leather exterior, the classic sofa buttons create ripples in the cushions and secure the pillowy shape.

Just looking at it, do you feel uncomfortable in your non-Eames Lounge Chair?  

Why are Eames Lounge Chairs so expensive?

Rather than a trend-hopping company, the Eames Lounge Chair has continued to entice even modern artists like Tyler, the Creator.

With incredible founding ideologies from men like 1920s CEO DJ De Pree who once defiantly said “In the long run, businesses and business leaders will be judged not by their profits or their products but by their impact on humanity.” It’s easy to see how this company might be bigger than just a furniture seller. 

The storied institution mixed incredibly with its talented design collaborations. This chair is featured in the Museum of Modern Art (along with Eames’ 86 other MoMA works and entries in the U.S. Library of Congress) Additionally, Herman Miller has won 23 years’ worth of Most Admired Company Awards from Fortune Magazine. 

So owning an Eames Lounge Chair is also about owning a Herman Miller piece of design history, but the company continues to provide exceptional service to its customers. 

Just exploring the Eames Lounge Chair page on their website, the company offers downloadable 3D Models for interior designers, a 12-year warranty, and chair maintenance guides including how to clean and tighten its fasteners.

For a company that has achieved so much, it’s easy to see why creating an incredible product that has maintained its spot on the cutting edge of design for more than 50 years could cost a pretty penny. 

How can you tell if an Eames Lounge Chair is real? 

“The details make the design,” Charles Eames once said. And when determining the authenticity of the Eames Lounge Chair the same is true.

If you doubt the indescribable allure of the Eames Lounge Chair, simply web search Eames Lounge Chair replica and explore the world of knockoffs. When forging a new path forward for furniture design, the Eames forged a path wide enough for many to follow. 

But if you’re walking by one at a vintage shop or yard sale, consider these factors when determining its authenticity:

  • Original price — If it sold for anything beneath $4,800 originally it’s probably a rip-off. 
  • Base and feet — Review the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman’s base does it have four legs? If so, that’s a sign it’s original. The original lounge chair can also swivel 360 degrees. 
  • Reclining — Simply put, the original Eames Lounge Chair does not recline.  
  • Review the wood — a vintage chair will have five layers of wood whereas a modern version has seven. If your seller’s stories don’t match up it might be a fake. 
  • Shock Mounts — Underneath the armrests, four patented shock mounts allow the chair to flex as you relax.  

If you’re looking for more information to help you verify authenticity, the Hobbs Modern furniture dealer has great advice. 

What makes the Eames Lounge Chair so special?

The Eames Lounge Chair has made its way into popular culture through comic books, movie product placements, and the homes of millions across generations.

With its high-quality cushioned leather and strong hardwood support, simply looking at the chair puts you under the spell of its X-Factor. The high demand for the product is likely what created an entire economy for ripoffs of people willing to use lower-quality products and unpatented design techniques to recreate this piece of design history. 

It’s easy to make yourself comfortable in any type of chair, but the Eames Lounge Chair was designed to be comfortable for everyone. 

And that’s what makes it a timeless piece of design history. 

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