If you have the budget, an appreciation for authenticity as well as good taste in furniture design, there’s no question that you should choose an original Eames chair and ottoman. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
If, on the other hand, you want to know whether you really need to save up and invest in a real Eames lounge chair, or, whether it’s possible to get a near-identical replica and save yourself a few thousand dollars, the good news is yes, you can get an exceptionally high-quality, near-identical replica and save yourself a few thousand dollars.
But is it just the lack of a designer label that makes it a genuine Eames or not?
Well no. As good as these replicas are, (and some of them are really good) not taking into account the label, (or lack thereof) an expert would be able to tell the difference.
But then again, that would be inevitable, given that the Eames chair and ottoman, (originally titled 670 and 671 respectively) are far from anything that could be considered ordinary items of furniture.
If you need further evidence to back up the claim, Charles and Ray’s first version of the Eames lounge chair and ottoman are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
How much is an original Eames chair worth?
If you are thinking of buying a new Eames chair, the cost range at Y-Lighting.com is between $5,495.00 – $8,495.00 – depending on which wood veneer and fabric option you choose.
That may seem extravagant for a chair, do remember that Eames chairs hold their price exceptionally well. If you browse 1stdibs.com, for example, you can see what I’m talking about. They have a used/second-hand one, circa 2015, that is currently (at the time of writing) selling for £5,200.07.
Taking their enduring value into account, although for most of us it’s a considered purchase, it’s not just an expensive chair; it’s actually a very good investment. And don’t forget that these chairs age well.
The fact that they will look even better 20+ years from now – long after you would have worn out, or gone off, a furniture store chair that will soon have seen better days or gone out of style – makes the Eames lounge chair and ottoman a much more attractive option.
The Original Eames Chair
The photo you see above is an original Herman Miller Eames Chair and Ottoman available at Y-Lighting.com. Each chair is custom-built to order and comes with a five-year warranty. The one shown is the Santos Palisander option with black MCL leather.
More options and pricing for the original Herman Millar chair can be found at Y-Lighting.com.
Eames Chair Design
The original Eames lounge chair is made up of a number of key design elements, and I’ll list the main ones below.
- The Recline | The chair has a fixed angle of 15°. It feels flexible to sit in but doesn’t actually recline. (The angle of tilt was specifically designed to take the weight off the lower spine.)
- The Swivel | The chair swivels a full 360°, but the ottoman doesn’t swivel. It’s fixed.
- The Legs | The chair has 5 point legs whereas the ottoman has only 4.
- The Cushions | The chair seat and ottoman seat are the exact same size and are interchangeable. The cushions are removable. The backrest cushion attaches via hooks (it hooks onto and lifts upwards off the shell).
- The Filling | The filling is foam and the cushions are 6-inches thick (interestingly very early Eames chairs were upholstered with feathers).
- The Shell | The shell has 7- layers of molded plywood. Pre 1974 versions had 5 -layers of plywood.
- Where it’s Made | The Herman Miller chair is manufactured in the US.
- The Construction | The materials used are die-cast aluminum, stainless steel, leather, and in some cases fabric such as velvet. There are no visible screws.
- The Sizes | There are two sizes, to choose from, classic and tall.
Dimensions of the Classic Eames Chair:
- Width: 33.5″
- Depth: 35″
- Seat Height: 16″
Dimensions of the Tall Eames Chair:
- Height: 33.2″
- Width: 33.5″
- Depth: 37.8″
- Seat Height: 16.5″
Herman Miller Vs Vitra Eames
If you decide to invest in an original Eames, you will be faced with the choice between going for a Vitra or a Herman Miller Eames chair. In case you are wondering, we’ll explain the difference between the two.
Herman Miller and Vitra Eames chairs are both authentic. That being said, there are some design differences.
Herman Miller were the original manufacturers of the chair. However, with a growing demand for the Eames chair overseas, Miller were faced with a decision. Should they extend their business overseas, or, authorize a select number of overseas companies to manufacture and distribute the chair instead? They chose the latter.
Of the few original companies selected, only one manufacturer remains – and that is Swiss company Vitra.
It’s actually very easy to tell the two styles apart. Just as you’d expect, Herman Miller’s version of the chair is ever so slightly closer to the original 1956 design. You can easily spot the difference by looking at the base.
It’s really a matter of personal preference, but if you want that authentic 1956 look then the Herman Miller replicas will probably appeal to you more.
Replica Eames Chairs
If you are thinking of choosing a replica, the good news is that there are a number of high-quality Eames replicas out there, that are very faithful to the original Eames design specifications.
So how do you choose a good Eames replica?
First of all, it really helps to know your Eames. If you know what design features an original Eames consists of, it will make it much easier to eliminate poor-quality reproductions.
We’ve listed the main design features in our “original Eames chair” section above, and referencing the list there, should really help you decide which Eames replicas are worth going for – and which to give a miss.
I’ll give you an example: The original Eames consists of three separate shells. Each shell is consists of 7 sheets of layered plywood veneers.
The individual sheets are stacked on top of each other, (sandwich-like) in alternating glue coated and none glue coated (dry) sheets.
The layers are then heated to just the right temperature. And precisely the right amount of pressure is applied to bend and mold the wood into the classic organic forms that the chair is famous for.
Now there are actually some replicas out there, that boast of “new improved 8-layers of plywood”. That, to me is a red flag, right there. I would question why they needed to use eight layers of plywood for a start – for me at any rate, that’s one I’d avoid.
Especially when you take into account that the original Eames chair was meticulously designed. A process that took Charles and Ray Eames many years and countless failed attempts before they were finally able to produce a prototype that was both functional and comfortable as well as aesthetically pleasing. The Eames chair made its debut in 1956.
Although there have been some refinements to the design over the decades, these have been the result of decisions made by expert furniture designers at Eames, as well as improved manufacturing techniques.
The most notable changes over the years have been:
- The transition from 1971 onward from a feather filling to foam.
- The addition of new 4 types of wood veneers. Originally the chairs had Rosewood shells. They now come with a choice of Cherry, Walnut, Ash, and Santos veneers.
- And of course, those layers of plywood that we’ve already mentioned above. The shells originally consisted of 5-layers of plywood but from the mid-1970s onward, the chairs have been manufactured using 7-layers.
I hope this guide has been helpful to you, let me know what you think in the comments below.