The iconic Eames' lounge chair celebrates 60 years

Frasier Crane liked kicking back in his Eames lounge chair in his luxurious Seattle bachelor pad.

Hugh Laurie's irascible Dr House had a version in off-white corduroy. Don Draper wasn't allowed to own one at home because it would have looked too clichéd (he had an Eames executive chair in the office instead).

But that didn't stop cartoonist Hank Ketcham drawing one in which to seat Dennis the Menace's dad.

The Eames Chair turns 60 this year, and over the past six decades it has become the ultimate status perch; a symbol of mid-century modernism, sophistication, and design savvy.

Man cave must

Greg Natale, one of Australia's top interior designers is a big fan of the Eames chair. "I've used that chair and its ottoman in a couple of man caves," says Natale. "What I like about it, is that it's masculine, it has a great shape, it's classic, and the mix of leather and wood really suits a bachelor pad."

Natale says he usually uses the chair as it was originally designed, in black leather with a rosewood veneer shell. However, he also likes them finished in white leather; a colour that the designers – Ray and Charles Eames – were never terribly fond of.

The story goes that if they saw a white one in a showroom window, they would insist it be removed.

Playful plywood

It was the mid-1950s when the Eames's, two of America's greatest industrial designers, decided to create a chair that would have the "warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt".

Inspired by the 19th century English club chairs, the Eames' used their knowledge of plywood moulding to come up with a design that has stood the test of time.


The first chair was given to the design duo's friend, director Billy Wilder, and he used it to relax in between takes. The chair made its public debut in 1956 on the Arlene Francis Home TV program. "Well, that is quite a departure Charles and it looks wonderfully comfortable," the immaculately coiffured Ms Francis pronounced, when the chair was unveiled in glorious black and white.

Statement chair

From that point on, whenever a set design wanted to convey a sense of a character's unimpeachable taste, the Eames chair was enlisted. And so, the chair has appeared in such diverse productions as Sunday in New York (1963), Hope Springs (2012) and even in the animated spy spoof, Archer.

The chair is still manufactured by American Furniture giant Herman Miller, with much of the assembly and sanding done by hand. It's not cheap, at $8255 (with the ottoman) but you are better off saving up for the genuine article, than opting for one of the many inferior knock-offs on the market.

Natale says because the Eames is a statement chair, it should be allowed to fulfil that role, rather than be hidden away. "I've used them as a reading chair, and a TV chair, as well as placed within a study," he says.

More classics

He is quick to point out that the Eames Chair is not the only iconic mid-century design that works well in a man cave.

Other choices include the Aluminium Group Executive Chair (also by Eames); the Arco Lamp (Archille Castiglioni); Ball Clock and Platform Bench (George Nelson); Tulip Table (Eero Saarinen); and the Swan Chair and AJ Lamp (Arne Jacobsen).

"The secret is to mix it up," says Natale. "Don't fill your man cave with these classics, or it will look like you live in a high-end furniture showroom."