Charles and Ray Eames saw design as an ongoing journey — a process that delights in exploration and insight, and embraces updates and improvements. In the 1940s, this philosophy led the duo to the evolve their techniques for molding plywood into a design that solved problems through plastic: their now-classic Eames Molded Plastic Chair.
Charles and architect Eero Saarinen, and then Charles and Ray together, had experimented with a single-shell form for several years before Charles and Ray submitted a design in stamped metal in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1948 “International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.” Their entry received second place. Its heavy, neoprene-coated form proved costly to produce, however, so Charles and Ray turned their attention to something new: plastic. They soon found that the exciting material could mold into organic shapes and comfortably conform to the body, allowing their design to do more with less.
In 1950, it was this iteration that Herman Miller made available, marking the arrival the first mass-produced plastic chair. It did not, however, mark the end of the evolution of the seating. Since its launch, the Eames Molded Plastic Chair has continually benefited from the Eames process of exploration and refinement. Details like shock mounts, color and height options, base variations, and use of upholstery have welcomed enhancements. Manufacturing processes have been closely monitored and modified. And in the late 1980s, when new findings showed fiberglass-reinforced plastic shells to be less suitable for the environment, Herman Miller and Ray Eames discussed discontinuing the design; in the ’90s, the chairs officially ceased production. After investigating sustainable solutions, however, Herman Miller and the Eames family reissued the seat in 2000 in 100% recyclable polypropylene.
This chair, like its designers, has been on a continual journey. Now, the design takes its next step forward using 3-D veneer technology, a process that provides the additional flexibility wood veneer needs to be molded into complex curves — and take on the classic form as a single wood shell.
This new expression, the Eames Molded Wood Side Chair, honors the organic shapes, sleek lines, and honest materials of Ray and Charles’ classic work — and its introduction beautifully represents Herman Miller’s longstanding commitment to the Eames vision of continued exploration, refinement, and discovery. Find out more about the new chair here, and look for it to be available soon in the Herman Miller Store.