There are many definitions of a classic. The Eames Aluminum Group, the 1958 creation of Charles and Ray Eames, meets all of them, including the ability to take a bit of tinkering in stride. In this case, it’s the addition of a pneumatic height adjustment.
First, a bit of history. When Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard were designing the Columbus, Indiana, home of Irwin Miller, founder of Cummins Engines, they “complained” to Charles and Ray Eames that they couldn’t find any high-quality outdoor furniture. The Eameses took the bait. By 1958, Herman Miller, Inc., had launched their response—the Aluminum Group indoor-outdoor line.
It soon moved indoors exclusively, taking up residence in homes and offices everywhere. Then, in 1969, Charles and Ray extended the original design. They added plush cushions, and the Soft Pad Group was born.
By the early 1970s, Charles and Ray were tinkering with the design. They considered adding a pneumatic lift to their chairs, but it was truly a “mechanism,” bulky and unreliable, so they abandoned the effort.
Fast forward to today. Two realities converged that made adding a pneumatic lift the right thing to do. First, these chairs are as popular as ever. Their graceful silhouette sits equally well in retro interiors, elegant lobbies, or hip young offices. Second, lifts have evolved. They’re smaller and sleeker, so adding them could be done subtly. That was especially important to the Eames Office, which played a key role in advancing the addition of the pneumatic lift.
The lift is available on executive and management chair models. It makes them much easier to adjust. Yet, the adjustment paddle, as well as the lift and tilt—with a lock option—visually blend into the chair’s underside. The mechanical lift of the original design remains standard on the executive and management models.
By Randall Braaksma