The Eames Shell Chair History

By Sara . Updated: January 16, 2017
The Eames Shell Chair History

One of the most famous names in the world of furniture is the Eames Chair. The name Eames has grown so huge in popularity that when any furniture is associated with it, the crowd is immediately attracted towards the piece. This popularity is not due to the lineage of the name but rather due to the innovation and hard work of two people: Charles and Ray Eames. Their most popular piece which is in demand even today is the Eames Shell Chair. Let’s find out the Eames Shell Chair history in this OneHowTo article.

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Charles and Ray Eames

Before getting on to the Eames Shell chair hsitory, let’s know something about its creators Charles and Ray Eames. Charles Ormons Eames, Jr (Charles) and Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames (Ray) were husband and wife. They were American designers whose contribution in the field of modern architecture and furniture created history. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film.

The Beginning

Before meeting Ray, Charles was working on plywood chairs with 3-D curves. When he married Ray he was still working on the project. After some time, his partner decided to call it quits with them. But both Charles and Ray had their mind set on making compound curves by molding plywood.

The War

Soon, World War II started and even though Charles and Ray could not make chairs by molding plywood, yet they succeeded in creating light and stackable leg splints and glider seats which were used in war.

Till then, Charles and Ray were unsuccessful in developing a single shell plywood form. So, they came up with an alternative i.e. a chair made of two molded plywood panels that were separate from each other, one for the seat and other for the back.

The Competition

After the end of World War II, the need for low cost furnishing increased. So, when a dinner was held on 23 October, 1947, presided by the President of the Museum of Modern Art, an international competition for cost effective furniture design was announced.

For this competition the Eames sent the design of their single form shell chair made of stamped metal.

The Win

When the result was declared, Charles Eames won the second prize with a cash prize of $2,500 thanks to his Shell chair. The inventive base design of the chair helped him to gain the 2nd place in the competition.

The Eames Shell Chair History - The Win

The Flaw

After winning the prize, Charles, who was working with the company Herman Miller realized that the steel molding of the Shell chair is quite costly. Also it would start to rust after some time and it was cold to touch. To remove the coldness a coating of neoprene was added and it added to the cost of production.

The Solution

After the flaws were brought into light, Charles started looking for materials which can be molded and yet be cost effective. His search ended when he found out about plastic reinforced with fiberglass.

Partnership and First order

The model of shell chair made with fiberglass proved to be a great success. Soon, a partnership was arranged between Zenith Plastic Company and the Herman Miller Furniture Company. It was then they decided to produce the “Fiberglass Armchair", which was designed by Charles Eames and had won a prize in the Museum Design Project of the Museum of Modern Art”.

They first ordered 2000 shells to create the iconic fiberglass Eames Shell Chair. It is a far cry form its recently re-gained popularity. So much so that there are plenty of fake Eames Shell chairs on sale now. On our article you can tell a real one from a fake one!

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