Eames Shell Chairs

A casual arrangement of Eames shell chairs and stools in fiberglass, wire, wood, and plastic.

For every need,
in every way,
for everyone

Charles and Ray Eames built their single-shell chair design on the principle of universality. Two biomorphic shells welcome bodies of all shapes and sizes. A choice of bases addresses most seating needs—dining, working, even rocking a baby to sleep. Material and upholstery options cover practically any aesthetic. It all adds up to more than two million unique configurations and 70 years of Shell Chair love.

Two Eames Molded Plastic Armchairs with low wire bases on a rug in a living room setting.

A more sustainable seat

In the spirit of continuous reinvention, the Shell Chair uses sustainable materials with each iteration. Its most recent innovation is the addition of molded plastic shells containing 100 percent post-industrial recycled plastic. As a result, the Eames shells will use 122 tons of recycled plastic per year, equating to a 15 percent carbon use reduction. *

*Based on current annual sales forecast.

Two Eames Molded Fiberglass Side Chairs sitting in front of a bookshelf.

Materials for molding

The Eameses’ one-piece shell concept has never been tied to any one material. The original 1950 designs were fiberglass, with bent wire following the next year. The environmental hazards of working with fiberglass prompted a switch to polypropylene. Later, evolving material technology made it possible to return to a safer fiberglass option for customers, as well as the addition of wood and recycled plastic options. They're all part of the line today—along with options for upholstery and seat pads.

A residential work setting featuring an Eames Task Chair and Distil Desk.

Base motives

In an oft repeated 1969 interview, Charles Eames was asked: To whom does design address itself? "Design addresses itself to the need," he responded. That simple answer explains the variety of Shell Chair base options available today. Whether you need elegant dining chairs or statement-making office seating, versatile stacking chairs or stools for the kitchen counter, there’s an Eames Shell Chair for you.

Product Family

An archival image of Charles and Ray Eames sitting in a room full of colorful Shell Chairs.

Production still from Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair, a film by Charles and Ray Eames. Used by permission and © 1960 Eames Office LLC. All rights reserved.

Design Story

The idea to create a lightweight, one-piece chair shell dates back to 1939. That's when Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen began experimenting with plywood chair shells at Cranbrook Academy. After Charles and Ray Kaiser married in 1941, the couple picked up these experiments at the Eames studio in Venice, California.

In 1948, Charles entered a stamped steel shell chair in the Museum of Modern Art’s International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design. It took second place, but the Eameses determined that steel could be cold and might rust over time. So they kept iterating. They reached out to a boat builder to create a fiberglass shell prototype. Then they began looking for a partner who could mass produce the shells. By 1950, Herman Miller had introduced the world to this endlessly versatile chair. Today it’s become a design icon.

Check out the Designer Bio