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The Plastic chairs: pioneers of modern design

“The best for the most for the least” is how Charles and Ray Eames described their primary aim as furniture designers. Of all their creations, none came closer to this ideal than the Plastic Chairs.
The Plastic chairs: pioneers of modern design
The Plastic chairs: pioneers of modern design

Democratising design through new materials 

Charles Eames worked as an engineer for the US Army. After the war, he came up with the idea of using a material hitherto used only in the aviation industry for furniture design: glass fibre-reinforced polyester resin. First used to reinforce aircraft radars, the resin would earn Eames a place in history. Taking advantage of new moulding/folding techniques, in 1942 he created a shell made from this material to produce designer furniture. Thus were born the plastic chairs and armchairs designed by Charles and his wife Ray Eames.

The Plastic Chair was first presented as part of the “Low-Cost Furniture Design” competition organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Its organic, flowing lines made it an immediate success and since then millions of units have been produced!

The Eames Plastic Chair also introduced a new type of furniture that has since become widespread: the multifunctional chair, whose shell can be combined with a variety of legs to suit different purposes.

A chair that keeps up with the times

Since the early ’90s, the seats of Eames chairs and armchairs have been manufactured in polypropylene rather than polyester resin/fibreglass, and are available in a wide range of colours. Configured in countless individual combinations, they can be used in the most diverse of settings.

The year 2024 marks yet another turning point with shells now made of post-consumer recycled plastic. The material comes from the recycling of household materials, in particular used packaging, obtained as part of the yellow bags (Gelber Sack) collection programme in Germany.

Innovative for its day, its material and shape revolutionised the world of industrial design. The chair, which will forever be remembered as the first mass-produced chair to be called a “legend” is now, almost 75 years after its debut, resolutely modern and more stylish than ever.

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