Having achieved success with their plywood and molded plastic chairs, Charles and Ray Eames challenged themselves to make a reasonably priced, strong but lightweight, quality chair out of bent wire.
Introduced in 1951, it was an immediate hit. Distinctively, unmistakably Eames, the wire chair has stood the test of time and is as popular today as it was half a century ago.
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What's In It For You
It's a Classic
The Eames wire chair makes a striking statement in homes and workplaces and almost anywhere else. It's part of the permanent collection in numerous museums, including San Francisco MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like other Eames classics, it has become an eye-catching tattoo. A Japanese artist has knitted padding that turns the chair into an installation. People love it.
The curved, bucket-back seat is made of cross-woven wires and secured on a bent-wire, welded base, also called the "Eiffel Tower" because of its resemblance to another, less portable, classic design. The organic seat shape fits the body contours.
The chair's instantly recognizable airy silhouette belies its strength and durability. To achieve that strength, and an organic shape, the designers made the rim of the chair out of light-gauge wire, then doubled it. Because the chair has cross-weaving only where strength is required, it's light-weight and easy to move.
Choice of Styles
Wire only. Wire with a one-piece leather seat pad. Wire with a criss-cross two-piece leather pad (the "bikini"). The seat and base are chrome, and the leather pads are available in a range of colors.
Glide choices. Standard glides feature a durable plastic bottom and can be ordered with felt bottoms to protect bare floors; both styles tilt slightly to help with leveling.
In the Eames design studio, new materials were the name of the game. After all, it was Charles and Ray who had developed new ways to mold wood that were so successful that their discoveries were used in numerous ways by the US Navy during World War II.
That same molded plywood, and then molded plastic, ended up as materials in innovative chairs produced in the 1940s. Never content to repeat themselves, in the early 1950s, the Eameses and their design staff turned to bent and welded wire. Inspired by trays, dress forms, and baskets, the designers developed a variety of pieces, including Eames wire chairs.
To achieve the desired shape and strength, while keeping costs low (because affordability was a major criterion of Eames designs), they made the rim of the chair a lighter-gauge wire and doubled it. This advance won them the first American mechanical patent for design. They didn't use cross-weaving on the outer edges, which made the chair lighter in weight and less expensive to produce.
The original chair padding was fabric, not leather, and the first attempts at making it hit a snag: The padding slid around too much on the wire network. To solve the problem, the Eameses took a quintessentially Eames approach; working with a design school, they developed equipment and methods to make the padding they wanted, moved the equipment into their studio, and produced the padding on the spot.