The Chair in Charles Eames' Office

A guest feature by Daniel Ostroff

Visitors to the Vitra Schaudepot, the newest building on the Vitra Campus, can now see Charles Eames’ personal office, just as it was when he passed away in 1978.

Depicted in the photograph above is a work table designed by George Nelson, the Design Director of Herman Miller, who recruited Charles and Ray to the company. In the foreground on the left hangs an antique Hopi Indian Dance Crown. Below it, on top of an Eames Storage Unit, are a miniature Thonet chair model and a black and white checkerboard ashtray by renowned Swedish designer Stig Lindberg. Charles’ chair at the work table is an Eames Intermediate Chair, which he and Ray introduced in 1968.

Unlike many of Charles and Ray Eames’ designs, the Eames Intermediate Chair is not part of a furniture group. Aside from upholstery options, the only configurations for the design were with or without arms and a stationary or tilt-swivel seat. The unique cast aluminum frame was only suitable for a desk chair. It had some very interesting details, as seen in the images below. The horizontal bar of the chair’s arms is fitted through holes in the vertical parts of the frame. The ‘antler’ shaped stretcher under the seat fits through holes in the horizontal portions of the frame.

Charles and Ray called this design “intermediate” because it was intermediate in price and weight compared to other Eames chairs. It weighed more, had more padding, and was more expensive than the Eames Aluminum Desk Chair. It cost less than the Eames Executive Chair because it was not as heavy, and didn’t have that design’s multiple hand-tufted pads.

In 1973, the Eames Office and Herman Miller decided to discontinue production of the Eames Intermediate Chair. It was made redundant by the success of the Eames Soft Pad Group of 1969. The versatile Eames Soft Pad Group included two versions of an upholstered desk chair, one with a low back, one with a high back, and a lounge chair and ottoman, all built with similar structural and upholstery details. Those who come across an Eames Intermediate Chair on the vintage market have found a real treasure.

The replica of the Eames Office is on show on the lower level of the Vitra Schaudepot. The contents of the office are on loan to the Vitra Design Museum from the Eames family collection.


Publication Date: 16.09.2016, first published on eamesoffice.com
Author: Daniel Ostroff
Images: Charles Eames’s 1978 office as it appears now in the Vitra Schaudepot:
Photo by Eames Demetrios. © 2016 Eames Office, LLC (eamesoffice.com).
Photo by Mark Niedermann. © Vitra Design Museum.
The Eames Intermediate Chair: Photo by Grant Taylor. © 2016 Eames Office, LLC (eamesoffice.com). Gift to the Eames Office from J.F. Chen, who paid for the photography of hundreds of vintage Eames chairs, including the Eames Intermediate Chair photos published in this article. These photos first appeared in the book, 'Collecting Eames'. All of the photos were later generously donated to the Eames Office.