When Charles and Ray Eames designed the Eames Lounge Chair in 1956, comfortable, soft seating ranked high amongst the key objectives. To achieve the desired tactile feeling, Charles and Ray experimented with a variety of cover materials, including different types of leather and fabrics. The fabric-covered Lounge Chair was only available for a short period, and just a small number were produced. Historical photos can provide insights into the Eameses’ thinking about the chair with fabric upholstery. Like other legendary twentieth-century architects and designers, Charles and Ray Eames spent time designing textiles to put their ideas about colours, shapes and materials into practice. Ray Eames had studied under Hans Hofmann, which provided her with a painterly vocabulary and visual syntax that she applied to the design of textiles, graphic patterns and colours.Photos taken by Charles Eames for a 1956 advertisement show the Lounge Chair in fabric. In these images, the fabric looks soft, warm and inviting – offering a perfect spot to spend a cold winter evening.
During the same photo shoot, Charles Eames took a picture of the actress Amanda Dunne resting in a fabric-covered Lounge Chair. Dunne was a close friend of the Eameses and wife of the well-known screenwriter Philip Dunne. This photo was never used to advertise the Lounge Chair and has since been preserved in the Eames Archive. When Vitra and the Eames Office searched for historical material on the Lounge Chair upholstered in fabric, the photo was rediscovered. The image with Amanda Dunne clearly expresses what the Eameses sought to achieve – a comfortable place to rest, enhanced by a soft fabric cover.A later photograph, taken in Herman Miller’s Los Angeles showroom in 1959, shows an elegantly patterned fabric cover on the Eames Lounge Chair. In this photo, one can recognise how a patterned cover adds a feminine touch to the masculine shape of the Lounge Chair.
The present-day location of these two beautiful examples of the Lounge Chair upholstered in fabric is unknown, but they certainly convey the fact – which applies to all Eames chairs – that the designer couple always explored multiple ways of creating comfortable upholstery. The Wire Chair, the Aluminium Group and Soft Pad Group are further examples of this.Some people prefer leather, others prefer fabric – how about you?
More information on the topic of Eames furniture is found in the "Eames Furniture Sourcebook" and “Essential Eames”, two new publications by the Vitra Design Museum, available in German and English editions from booksellers or directly from the VDM publishing house.