The modernist house built for Irwin by Saarinen and furnished by Girard finished construction in 1957 without the much-needed chairs for the terrace, and after a little bit of pondering and tinkering, Charles and Ray Eames started to think about a first prototype of a high-end leather chair that would then grow to become an entire line of furniture, in their mind. They didn’t have a name yet, but they did have a concept, and empowered by this idea, they started developing the first test chairs with one big notion in mind.
“You start on a human scale,” Charles would say later about the project. It wasn’t just about building something that was beautiful, but about accommodating the human body in the most comfortable way possible. The chairs were also meant for both indoor and outdoor use, something that the available chairs at the time did not really have the capability to achieve. In their search for good materials that would be resistant in both scenarios, Charles and Ray Eames came to aluminum, a lightweight metal that could also be easily shaped into various forms while also keeping its resistant qualities.
The first models of the Eames office chairs
After settling for aluminum as the building block for the whole structure, they covered the first prototypes of the chair with a soft membrane of fabric, way before the idea of leather. The first chairs were called the Leisure Group, but some people referred to them as the Indoor-Outdoor Group. The first models, EA 101, 103, and 104. They are still being marketed as indoor use dining chairs, and they were very popular when they were introduced to the American market in 1958.
A second line of prototypes, EA 105 to 108 were the first models to use leather and to be specifically designed as indoor objects for use in conference rooms and other kinds of workspace settings. That same year, 1958, they also introduced models 115 and 116, which followed the same conference room concept but with high backs and swivel seat capabilities. The EA 124 model also introduced a cushion above the high back to serve as a headrest, and other kinds of fabrics, aside from leather, were also introduced.
The Eames Office chairs replicas of today
The EA 117, 118, and 119 models from 1958 also were the first chairs to introduce casters, and they are the models that would eventually become the first part of our line of Eames office chairs, both mid-back and high-back, with the signature ribbed design being the main selling point of the collection, as well as the ergonomic curved design that stretches on a straight line from the top and curves outwards at the bottom to create a functional shape that the human body can easily adapt to without issue.
Interestingly, the soft pad variants that are now our soft pad variants came out much, much later, in 1969. They were called, conveniently, the Soft Pad Group, and their model numbers were EA 217 and EA 219. This is where the Eameses and their company started adding new mechanism like tilt mechanisms, along with the cushion configuration that still remains in our replicas today, and which also amplifies the ergonomic capabilities of these great office chairs.
At Barcelona Designs, we keep the same manufacturing standards in the four models that we know offer to you, which are high-quality, high-end reproductions of the EA 117, 119, 217, and 219 models of Eames Office chairs. We invite you to check them our as well as reading up on our other articles about them to understand the Eameses philosophy and their legacy.