To mark the return of our Journal's 'Icons at The Conran Shop' series, it seems only right to re-launch with a coveted world favourite: the Eames Lounge Chair and, of course, its accompanying Ottoman.
Prototyped by the matchless Charles and Ray Eames in the 1940s, the first-ever Lounge Chair and corresponding Ottoman, then referred to as the 670 and 671, were gifted to their friend and film director Billy Wilder in 1956. The Lounger was publicly unveiled during Arlene Francis' 'Home Show,' after the Eameses prepared a short film depicting its meticulous production and packaging, soundtracked by the esteemed composer Elmer Bernstein. According to the Eames Office, "it was the first and only chair to achieve such a platform."
This future staple of modern design sought inspiration from the English ‘club' chair, with Charles Eames aspiring to fuse contemporary aesthetics with established comforts. He desired the Lounger to be "a special refuge from the strains of modern living" and wished for it to mirror "the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt."
Following its trailblazing debut, original manufacturer Herman Miller launched an advertising campaign to highlight the Lounger's versatility. It became a bestseller, shipping 100,000 units by 1975, and its continued success immortalises the genius of the Eameses. The Lounger combines sculptural lines of wood with removable supple leather, comprising three curved plywood shells covered with veneer. Forming the instantly recognisable headrest, backrest and seat, the Lounger is completed with intricate connection points, sleek aluminium supports and enduring shock mounts.
Presently, the Lounger is produced for the European market by the craftspeople of Vitra and Herman Miller elsewhere, with permission from the Eames Office. Allowing taller people the experience of the original's comforts, Vitra also developed a larger version, and such it is now available in 'Classic' and 'Tall' options.
Our founder Sir Terence Conran praised the Lounger as "the perfect example of design, innovation and beauty all coming together in one package." He made it a primary feature at The Conran Shop ever since our doors first opened in 1973 when the Lounger was just 17 years old. The legendary Lounger was one of Sir Terence's top design icons and one of his favourite chairs, an honour shared with Yrjö Kukkapuro's enveloping Karuselli.
Sir Terence's long-standing relationship with Vitra granted us the privilege of collaboration, and we issued our take on the Lounger with exclusive, limited and numbered editions in 2017 and 2019. Marking the first partnership, our Creative Director Stephen Briars noted, "It's rather like sitting in a beautiful vintage sports car, just without the bodywork and the engine." 2017's offering showcased a limited edition of 25 white-pigmented walnut and 'Dark Sand' leather finishes, while 2019 flaunted 20 Loungers in mahogany and vegetable-tanned leather.
To conclude, the celebrated author and architectural historian Esther McCoy perfectly summarised that "no other piece of furniture has so stirred the mind and heart of the twentieth century both here and abroad." You can see the design for yourself in many a film, television and even visual art capacity, and in the permanent collections of dozens of renowned institutions worldwide, including the MoMA, as well as our Stores.