How Eames Chairs Helped Define Mid Century Modern Style

Lightweight, easy to maintain, stain resistant, comfortable, but at the same time rich in character and vintage appeal of mid century elegance – the world-famous collection of Eames chairs helped define the emerging design style of the mid century era, captivating the general public and the experts alike with their unique and innovative aesthetic that looks as fresh today as it did 70 years ago when the first model from the collection left the factory line. Today, we will explore the rich legacy of this collection and discuss the features that make Eames plastic chairs stand out as the finest examples of mid century modern design.

Industrial design in mid century manner

The famous American duo Charles and Ray Eames is well-known around the world for their bold and innovative designs. From luxurious and elegant Eames Lounge chair to plywood experiments, these designers certainly left a lasting mark on the history of furniture design. However, their most famous designs are undoubtedly the plastic dining chairs they designed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This collection of iconic vintage classics such as DAW, DAR, DSW and DSR alongside their rocking chair RAR designed in the same style can easily be observed in countless stylish homes, on the covers of the interior design magazines and in many public spaces including offices, coffee shops and restaurants.

What is truly striking with these designs – aside from their timeless elegance with a classic vintage appeal – is their industrial design allure. And this comes as no surprise when we take into account the fact that both Charles and Ray Eames were actively supporting the war effort throughout the 1941-1945 period and worked for the US military. The designer duo was tasked with using what were cutting-edge industrial techniques at the time to produce everyday necessities for the soldiers. It was then that the Eames couple first started experimenting with industrial design. The expertise in working with moulded plastic and plywood gained during this period profoundly shaped all of their subsequent designs.

Dining chairs for the modern home

When their world-famous collection of plastic Eames chairs first started taking place in the late 1940s, the designer duo thought of their designs as dining chairs specifically designed for the 20th century home. As such, they were rooted in the ideas of functionality and affordability which are further highlighted by the way in which these chairs were produced and the materials used in their production. At the time when first Eames dining chairs left the factory line, plastic and its derivate materials were still considered to be relatively new and almost revolutionary raw resources when it comes to furniture production. At the same time, this new material not only provided the designers with new opportunities when it comes to bold and sculptural shapes, but also ensured that the finished product will be lightweight and resistant to stains and water.

But, in the best practice of mid century modern style, the Eames couple didn’t stop at functionality alone, but instead further developed their design so that it is marked with timeless elegance and style that will ensure their recognition in the vibrant world of mid century furniture design. So, moulded plastic shells were combined with characteristic stainless steel ‘Eiffel bases’ or simple slightly tapered legs made out of uncoloured wood to provide an additional layer of visual interest that is rooted in the interplay and contrast of textures and materials.

A variety of models

Eames plastic chair collection includes five distinct models, all of which are designed using different combinations of two distinct seat shapes and two distinct bases, with the addition of more unique Eames RAR rocking chair. When it comes to the shell of the chair, Eames models have either narrow plastic seat without armrests which is designed to be more in line with the general characteristics of the dining chairs of the era, while the other has been inspired by lounge chairs and as such it includes ergonomically shaped armrests with are merged with the backrest and the seat into one organically flowing, almost sculptural form.

The bases of the chairs come in two flavours – the one that is arguably the most common is the one that combines wooden tapered legs with the coloured steel elements that bind them together. Somewhat less popular on the modern market, but just as elegant is the characteristic stainless steel Eiffel base that relies on a number of intertwined steel rods that eventually come together at the same point, merging with outermost straight lines marking the main form of the legs.

Legacy

Eames plastic chairs collection profoundly influenced not only furniture design, but also interior design as a whole. The elegantly simple vintage design quickly captivated the audiences, sparking the imagination of countless of décor experts and enthusiasts who quickly found innovative ways to use the Eames chair in creating their desired aesthetic. At the same time, this collection inspired countless lookalikes, some of which even belong to completely different types of furniture (coffee tables borrowing elements from the Eames chairs being the most famous example). To this day, these models remain among the most sought-after designs of the mid century era that look as fresh and innovative today as decades ago when they were first presented to the public.