Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman: Real, Fake, or Reproduction?


LOCATION, PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAYThe Eames Lounge Chair is that iconic wood and leather chair that looks sort of like a baseball glove. Its three curved wooden frames hold thick comfy cushions to cradle your body all over at a slightly inclined angle. It has been in continuous production since its debut on the Arlene Francis show in 1956, inspiring numerous knock-offs and some genuine reproductions. In 1960, an original Brazilian rosewood Eames Lounge chair and ottoman were donated by the Herman Miller Company, the U. S. manufacturer, to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where they became part of the permanent collection. The chair was later seen on the TV show Frazier, fraiser-eameswhich brought it to public notice again. Original chairs can still be found on eBay for upwards of $3700, along with numerous “Eames-style” chairs. It’s a classic comfortable addition to any living space, but what’s the difference between the “real” ones and the reproductions?

Authentic Herman Miller produced Eames Lounge Chairs are labeled in several places with both paper and permanently attached metal labels. Modern chairs are constructed of seven layers of molded plywood in three shells [seat, back, and headrest] that should give the impression that they’re floating. The veneers on these shells are carefully matched, as is the fine-grained leather used for the cushions. The shells are separated from the connecting posts by thick rubber cushions that allow for some flexing in the design. The chair has a 5-legged base of die-cast aluminum; the ottoman has four legs. Each foot is made of rubber or plastic. The chair swivels a full 360 degrees but it does not recline; it’s fixed at a permanent 15-degree angle. The cushions are constructed of soft pliable leather over six inches of foam. Two leather buttons can be found towards the center of each cushion. The padded armrests are angled inwards towards the seat for maximum comfort.
Eames Lounge Chairs produced by the Herman Miller Company range in price from $4500 to $6800, depending on finishes and retailers.

A good reproduction Eames chair will meet all of the above-mentioned specifications, minus the multiple labels. The sizes, finishes, and materials are basically the same and are available in similar color combinations, giving you that iconic look. The chair has good solid construction that will last for years and provide the body-hugging comfort that the Eames Lounge chair is famous for. The only major difference between “real” and reproduction is the price, with a good reproduction chair retailing for about $1200. That’s over $3000 for the labels!

A final word about the “fakes” we mentioned at the beginning. There are numerous “Eames-style” lounge chairs available; some masquerade as authentic. These may be lower in price but most of them incorporate major changes to the design, which make the chairs unstable, more liable to break apart, and much less durable for everyday use. Buyers beware!


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