Charles Eames had been explicit with Herman Miller executives when the lounge chair that would bear his name was being developed: it had to be made of rosewood, a wood treasured for its rich color and personality. Unfortunately in the decades since the chair’s introduction, the massive Brazilian rosewood trees that supplied the veneer were disappearing, and slash-and-burn methods of clearing tropical rainforest were endangering an entire ecosystem. This created a dilemma: Do we ruin a wonder of modern design or a wonder of nature?
Nature won, and in 1991 we ceased using rosewood. It was a decision supported by Ray Eames, Charles’ design partner.
In 2006, the Eames lounge and ottoman recaptured its original appearance with the introduction of Santos Palisander, a sustainable species of Bolivian rosewood harvested from well-managed, certified forests. Santos Palisander closely resembles the aesthetic of the original Brazilian rosewood that Charles had insisted was integral to his design.
Almost 60 years ago, Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree defined a key company value when he stated, “We will be a good steward of the environment.” Since then we have worked hard and taken great pride in making sure that nature wins. The discontinuation of rosewood and the subsequent introduction of Santos Palisander is just one example. To learn more about our journey to become an environmental leader, please check out Merchants of Virtue, coming soon.