Following the end of WWII, low-cost housing and home furnishings were considered some of the most important factors within a country’s economy and a gauge of the general welfare of society throughout the world.
When Ray and Charles Eames released their moulded fibreglass armchair in 1950 for the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, sponsored by the MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), the design resulted in a solution to the limited and material resources available. Indeed, their mission had been to create mass-produced high quality affordable furniture for the modern household. This venture resulted in a collaboration with the Herman Miller company, and the production of some of the most defining examples of mid-20th century seating design.
Husband and wife duo, Charles and Ray Eames, had been experimenting with various durable yet flexible materials since the early 1940s. It wasn’t until they received a contract from the U.S. Navy to aid the war effort by developing lightweight moulded splints, stretchers, and aircraft components, that they were able to take the final step to successfully produce stable moulded plywood. Using these new methods, the first item Charles and Ray created was a simple plywood chair, known as the Eames Chair Wood, with both the seat and back supports gently curved to accommodate the human body ergonomically and comfortably. Charles was once quoted as saying that he created chairs for how people sit, and not how they should sit.
It was in 1956 that the iconic Eames Lounge chair (670) and Eames Ottoman (671) were released by the Herman Miller company, with Ray and Charles appearing on the NBC television network show "Home" for the launch. Developed as their interpretation of a 19th century club chair, it remains one of the most significant and instantly recognisable designs of the 20th century.
Eames went on to produce other items of furniture, while evolving original designs by offering different finishes, upholstery and wooden veneers. In February last year, a set of six "soft pad group" side chairs (938-138) together with an oak veneered oblong table, by Charles & Ray Eames for Herman Miller, sold for £2,700 here at Dawsons.
A mid-century vintage design, Charles & Ray Eames for Herman Miller set of six "soft pad group" side chairs (938-138) with brown coloured hide upholstery and four spar aluminium swivel bases. Together with a corresponding oak veneered oblong table with an aluminium base. Bought directly from Herman Miller in the 1980s.
The Herman Miller company and Vitra continue to produce and sell Eames designs to this day; therefore, the value of an Eames chair will vary largely based on the materials used, the condition, the year of manufacture and the style. Some colour combinations are more in demand than others. Authentic examples can fetch anywhere from a few hundred pounds to several thousands of pounds; value on the open market will very much depend on the type of chair... An original fibre glass Eames chair will command a significantly lower price tag against an original Eames Lounge chair.
The prolific impression Eames ingrained on mid-century design is undeniable, their designs are synonymous with the ever-popular Scandinavian style and their influence is obvious throughout furniture design including low-cost flat-packed items sold through retailers such as Ikea. Eames designs remain in demand for the savvy interior decorators of today, offering timeless sleek and elegant design with unmatched comfort.
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