With Charles and Ray Eames it was obvious that it wasn't just about style, which is incredible considering their iconic creations have influenced the decades that have proceeded them. Functionality and being fit for a specific purpose was and will always be a crucial element of what they have crafted, but now, to us, they are also clean, professional and, let's be honest, ooze iconic style.
But let’s go back for a moment and think about the Eames Fibreglass Armchair, which is perhaps one of their most famous pieces. How did it come about?
It originated because of a problem. The classic armchair first saw the light of day as an answer to the problem of affordable furniture following the second world war. The need was urgent and the Eames brand answered the call. It had to meet the need and be affordable for every-day people. The chairs were first produced with a metal 'H' base and with a choice of three colours but the colour palette and base options expanded to satisfy both the wallet and the eye. A range of these can be seen in our shop including the 'H' base, which according to an Eames family member, was their favourite as it was much more practical and functional. The 'X' model is a favourite with collectors and is—along with the other styles—available for those looking to convey a message of vintage class.
The Eames Armchair range is loved because of its flexibility and strength. Its ability to be mass produced, look and feel good was perfect for the time period. Made from polyester reinforced fiberglass or Zenaloy (created in World War II by the US Army), it took a high degree of product development and investment. Over the years manufacturing processes have taken into account the environmental impact of the chair’s production to create a safer workplace for production staff, which can only be a good thing.
So, what started as a solution to a problem became the birthing place of creativity that many have tried to emulate. 'Surrendering to the design journey' as Charles or Ray would say, came about from their indwelling passion to meet a need. We have the same challenges ahead of us. It isn't always about innovation, although it certainly has its place. Perhaps a job finished and well done will always imbue us with a fuzzy glow of achievement but, Charles and Ray managed to go further than that with The Eames Fibreglass Armchair. It signified both dignity and comfort, all at the same time.
There is no doubt that when we sit on a vintage Eames Armchair from the comfort of our office, dining table, nursery or lounge we are sitting on a piece of history that changed the market then, and continues to influence design now. Owning an Eames piece we have the immense privilege of being connected with Charles and Ray—the great problem solvers—as we continue the Eames story in our own lives and add to their heritage and legacy.