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How to recognize a real Eames Lounge Chair?

The mythical ” Lounge Chair” designed by Charles and Ray Eames….siis no longer presented Come on, a little catch-up session, followed by our detailed advice on how not to be fooled when buying your Eames lounge chair.

The birth of the myth

“What if we modernised the traditional English club chair? This question from Charles Eames was the starting point for the creation of the famous Lounge Chair . Introduced in 1956, this model (whose official name is n°670) with matching footrest, also called “ottoman” (n°671) is one of the most iconic models of the designer couple Charles & Ray Eames. It has been manufactured by Herman Miller in the USA since it went into production in the 1950s and by Vitra in Europe since 1984. The Lounge Chair made its debut on American television in 1956. Charles and Ray Eames appeared with their chair on the NBC Home Show.

The Lounge Chair is a leather chair with feather and bultex foam upholstery and a multi-layered structure of moulded plywood to provide a sturdy yet ultra-comfortable seat. It has become a true icon of 20th century design, so much so that it has become the benchmark for seating that every design enthusiast must have in their home. A copy of the Lounge Chair has even been included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA)

lounge chair eames

One of the main reasons why this chair is so comfortable is the way the seat is tilted backwards to take the weight off the back and spine, and the reason it is called a lounge. The original versions made by Herman Miller in the mid-1950s boasted “soft, supple leather pleats and soft feathers” similar to more traditional upholstered chairs.

A first clue that a chair is a pale copy should jump out at you if it has a reclining back. Because on the real Lounge Chair, it must be fixed, without adjustment! If it has a variable reclining mechanism, it is not a genuine piece, but a copy.

1) Measure the chair and ottoman

Most contemporary copies of the Eames Lounge Chair do not match Herman Miller’s original specifications. They are, in fact, generally taller and wider because the average height of the world’s population has increased by 10 cm since the 1950s (this is also why Vitra has been offering wider models for some years, to better accommodate new generations of customers).

An authentic old Lounge Chair will measure 840 mm in height (from the floor to the top of the headrest), while recent Vitra versions can also be found with the new dimensions, notably measuring 890 mm in height. The detail

Lounge chair eames dimensions

Source: Vitra

Deviations from these official dimensions may indicate that your chair is not authentic. However, some parts may have been restored, and small deviations in dimensions may have been introduced, without making it a pale copy. It may also be a recent, larger Vitra version. So size is not the only criterion to consider when authenticating it.

2) Look for a label

First look for a small plastic or paper label stuck to the underside of the seat. Either “Herman Miller”, or “Mobilier International” (Herman Miller distributor in France in the 60s and 70s), or “Vitra” (official European distributor since the 80s). One can also find “ICF” labels, an Italian publisher who had the Herman Miller license until the mid-80s. Labels vary from one period to another, even within the same publisher, but here are some examples of common labels:

herman-miller-label herman-miller-label-2 herman-miller-label-3herman-miller-label-5 herman-miller-label-7 herman-miller-label-8 herman-miller-label-9 herman-miller-label-10 herman-miller-label

In addition, the Lounge Chairs were all marked with different types ofadditional paper labels. Here are some examples too:

etiquette-lounge-chair-eames

etiquette-lounge-chair-eames

Some labels simply state that the chair was made by Herman Miller, others give more information. Sometimes paper labels are placed under a cushion if you cannot find them under the seat.

3) Check the finishing details

However, these types of labels can be removed or can degrade and fall off over time. On closer inspection, other details may play a role in authentication. For example:

  • There should be no visible screws in the 3 plywood parts forming the shell of the chair.
  • Also count the number of layers of plywood used in the construction of the shells. Older chairs have only five layers, newer ones have seven.

4) Look at the base

There are also some differences in the base when comparing a real Eames Lounge Chair with a copy. Firstly, the base has a bit of an angle (rather than being very steep) and the legs are not flat. Often, copies have a base constructed with square legs that do not fit, which is easier to construct. Or, the legs may be steeply sloping. This is one of the most obvious features compared to a genuine Eames Lounge Chair.

Also note that the ottoman (or footrest) should have 4 legs on the foot, not 5 like the seat. This difference is often seen on copies.

5) Challenge the price

Herman Miller and Vitra currently offer the Lounge Chair Ottoman in a variety of leather colours with matching woods.

One thing that is common to all of these chairs is the price. Depending on the materials selected, they sell new for between €4,500 and €6,000 including VAT (chair only, excluding delivery charges). The vintage models are on average 10 to 50% cheaper, depending on the model and the state of conservation and/or restoration.

Copies of the Eames Lounge Chair generally sell for between €500 and €2,000 new, and much less second-hand. So, if you spot a chair for less than €4,500, ask yourself some questions…..either it is second-hand and in a poor state of conservation (in need of restoration), or it is a copy! Just make sure you check the various elements indicated in this article to recognise the real thing from the fake!

In conclusion

The mythical Lounge chair has to be earned! If you want to buy this icon of vintage design, it would be a shame to buy a copy at the price of a real one. And if the investment is important, the satisfaction of sitting in it combined with the fact that your acquisition will not lose value on resale (and will perhaps even gain some) make it a sure value.

So, if you want to make the move and don’t want to make a mistake in buying your future Lounge Chair, consult a specialist player such as Design Market to get all the necessary guarantees before and after your purchase.

=> Discover all our Charles and Ray Eames chairs here

François Boutard