Product Story - The molded plywood dining chairs
offer the same exceptional comfort and enduring style as
the lounge chairs. But they're sized to work at the table.
These Eames chairs are molded to fit the contours of the
body, so sitting on this icon of modern design feels good.
By molding thin sheets of lightweight veneer into gently
curved shapes, Charles and Ray Eames managed to give a hard
material a soft appearance and establish the foundation
for the design of modern furniture.
Design Story - It All Started with These Chairs
The long and fruitful collaboration between Herman Miller
and Charles and Ray Eames began in 1946 with these chairs.
The molded plywood chairs were the couple's first attempt
at creating a chair that didn't need upholstery to be comfortable
and that could be mass produced easily.
How Far Could Wood Be Pushed? - Not long after Charles
and Ray were married, in 1941, they began experimenting
with just how far wood as a material could be pushed. Playing
around with a variety of wood-molding techniques, they made
a number of discoveries that led to a commission from the
U.S. Navy to develop plywood splints, stretchers, and glider
shells used in World War II. Charles said that recognizing
the need is the primary condition for design. With the war
over and the post-war boom beginning, Charles and Ray recognized
a need for furniture that was of high quality and affordable,
and that could be used in a variety of ways in the rapidly
changing average American home. And it occurred to them
that the technology they had created for the Navy—molding
wood using heat and pressure—could be adapted for furniture.
Plywood Furniture? Really? - The American home changed
dramatically after the war. The GI Bill allowed returning
service members to get college degrees and better jobs,
and most of those soldiers wanted a home of their own and
a family. Among the many results of this movement were the
baby boom and the extensive building of suburban homes,
which needed to be furnished. Plywood was not a popular
furniture material at the time—it was a building material.
But Charles and Ray liked it because they believed it could
be mass-produced using dimensionally shaped surfaces instead
of cushioned upholstery. They and their team experimented
with plywood molding for years before perfecting the final
Things Changed - The introduction of the molded
plywood chairs, with their lightweight, compound curves,
and streamlined visual profile changed furniture design
and manufacturing forever. Sculpting a seat and back that
fit the contours of the human body, while using relatively
inexpensive materials and mass production, the Eames team
created a truly comfortable, not to mention revolutionary,
chair that's as fresh in today's homes as when the soldiers
came marching home from World War II.