Charles & Ray Eames’ Iconic Lounge Chair Debuts on American TV (1956)

Liv­ing in Los Ange­les, I sup­pose I could go up and have a look (albeit a dis­tant one) at Charles and Ray EamesEames House any time I like. But I’ve nev­er got around to vis­it­ing that most notable of all works of mid­cen­tu­ry mod­ern Cal­i­for­nia archi­tec­ture, since I have anoth­er exam­ple of their era- (and coast-) defin­ing design much clos­er at hand. When­ev­er I look to my left, I see an Eames’ Lounge Chair — not my Eames Lounge Chair, per se, but the one my girl­friend brought with her when we moved in togeth­er. Much more than the sum of its mold­ed ply­wood and leather parts, the Eames Chair made even more of a mark on the design sen­si­bil­i­ty of the 20th cen­tu­ry than did the Eames House. Could the Eam­ses them­selves have known, when they first rolled it out in 1956, that the chair would remain unsur­passed in its fur­ni­ture niche more than 55 years lat­er? Watch them debut­ing the Eames Chair on TV, to Home Show host Arlene Fran­cis, and see if you can read it between the lines.

We first see the Eames Chair only in sil­hou­ette — but already we rec­og­nize it. “Well, that is quite a depar­ture, Charles, and it looks won­der­ful­ly com­fort­able,” says host to design­er. He takes the ques­tion quite lit­er­al­ly: “It’s rose­wood, ply­wood, and it’s black leather, and its insides are all feath­ers and down. I think it’d be a bet­ter idea if we would just build it for you right here.” We then see a short film, pro­duced in a com­bi­na­tion of live action and stop motion, show­ing the com­plete assem­bly and sub­se­quent dis­as­sem­bly of an Eames Chair. It also includes the pack­ing of its parts into a box with the logo of Her­man Miller, the com­pa­ny for whom the Eames orig­i­nal­ly designed it, and one that, so Charles says, allowed them seem­ing­ly com­plete aes­thet­ic inde­pen­dence, depen­dent on no spe­cif­ic mar­ket or sea­son. Hence the range of time­less Eames-designed chairs dis­played on the seg­ment that reveal the design evo­lu­tion lead­ing up to the Eames Chair itself, the most time­less of them all. “You real­ly cre­ate your own mar­ket, don’t you?” Fran­cis asks. Charles remains mod­est (and Ray has already exit­ed stage left), but on some lev­el must have under­stood that every impor­tant design­er does just that.

More than a half cen­tu­ry lat­er, you can still buy your own Eames Chair and Ottoman at Her­man Miller.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Design­ers Charles & Ray Eames Cre­ate a Pro­mo­tion­al Film for the Ground­break­ing Polaroid SX-70 Instant Cam­era (1972)

Charles & Ray Eames’ Icon­ic Film Pow­ers of Ten (1977) and the Less­er-Known Pro­to­type from 1968

Ice Cube & Charles Eames Rev­el in L.A. Archi­tec­ture

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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