Sunday, 27 April 2014

Eames Chair: The Eames Softpad Executive Chair

In 1958, Charles and Ray Eames was asked to design chairs for a wealthy industrialist in Columbus, Indiana named J. Erwin Miller. Chairs that could be both for indoor and outdoor usage. Chairs that could withstand the weather and the elements, be comfortable and be beautiful enough to also go indoors and not clash with the decor. (Source: Herman Miller, Smart Furniture)

According to Smart Furniture, 'what they came up with they called the Aluminium Group, and it was this group that led to directly to the creation, decades later, of the Eames Soft Pad Chairs. The original Aluminum Group Chairs were, indeed, indoor-outdoor creations. They were upholstered in mesh, and that made them easy to use outdoors without getting ruined. They were supported by polished aluminum, and that made them attractive and modern. They were shaped in a beautiful curve, and that made them classically stylish chairs. Immediately, almost everyone involved saw that these chairs were perfect for indoor use, and perfect for leather upholstery. The idea quickly shifted, from making idiosyncratic chairs for a single buyer into making amazing chairs for a legion of new buyers looking to improve the look of their homes and offices. These chairs, the Aluminum Group that was upholstered in leather and given the familiar profile we now know so well, were the progenitors of the Eames Soft Pad Chairs.'

The Eames Soft Pad Chairs, taken from Smart Furniture

'The Eames Soft Pad Chairs were updates, released in 1969, to the original Aluminum Group Chairs, and they were also an addition; they introduced a side chair into the mix that had its own special purpose in the system. The design of the Eames Soft Pad Chairs owes a lot to the original Aluminum Group, and also to the original indoor-outdoor prototype for both. Mainly, the technical innovation of the comfort pocket is owed to the original prototype.'

The Wife acquired two Eames Soft Pad Executive Chairs and a Herman Miller Aeron chair from an office auction at approximately SGD20 each. They office was reducing their floor space and they were getting rid of their excess office furniture. I do not think they are aware of the value of these chairs. The Eames Soft Pad Executive chair is retailing at around USD2,400 each and a basic Aeron chair at USD600.

There is a slight twist to the Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair that was bought. It was manufactured by ICF Italy.

Taken from

According to both Smart Furniture and Scott Howard UK website, 'The Aluminium Group Chair was first manufactured by Herman Miller Inc in the USA who later granted four manufacturers a "Licence to Produce" for their own markets in Europe. The four original licencee's were Vitra in Switzerland, Hille in the UK, ICF in Italy, and Mobilier International in France, of which only Vitra still retains a licence from Herman Miller Inc to manufacture for the European and Middle East markets, after becoming sole licencee with effect from the 1st of January 1986.'

ICF was founded by Fernando and Maddalena De Padova. According to their website, 'On a trip to Basel, Maddalena De Padova happens to discover the Wire Chair by Charles Eames. The encounter changes her life. A few months later, in fact, through Willi Fehlbaum, the founder of Vitra, Maddalena meets with the American company Herman Miller and acquires a license to produce the products designed by Charles Eames and George Nelson in Italy. Founding of ICF De Padova, with headquarters in Vimodrone, near Milan, for the production in Italy of the office furnishings of Herman Miller.'

Here are the photos of the Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair that I own.

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Front

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Back

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Side

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Aluminium Handle

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Aluminium Frame

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Aluminium Frame

Eames Soft Pad Executive Chair - Aluminium Frame

In case of any doubts...

ICF Italy's Address

The chair was used by the office since Sept 2006. Despite its age, it is still in very good condition. The leather is still good, despite some scuffs mark in the usual places for an office chair. The cushion is still strong. The pneumatic lift is works effortlessly. Most of all, it is one of the most comfortable chairs that I have ever sat in.

Writing this blog piece on this beautiful chair has given me a deeper appreciation on the architectural achievements of the Eames, of putting physics into a simple thing like a chair or an elephant for kids. Prior to this chair, I have also blogged about the Eames elephant.

According to Smart Furniture, the Eames Aluminium Group Chairs '...feature two polished aluminum ribs that range up and down the seat and seat back. Between these two ribs, the leather is stretched taut. And that's it to the casual eye. This creates a comfort pocket, in the same way hammocks and camp chairs create a sling. But the comfort pocket on these chair is different. Not only are the materials exquisitely comfortable, but each pocket is precise, measured, and repeatable to the Nth degree. They figured out a way to be precise with the sling, and make it actively inviting and comforting and supportive, rather than just sitting there. It was the first major chair not to use a solid back, and it was a huge hit. Years later, with the Eames Soft Pad Chairs, the technology is still sound and unimproved upon. The chairs are just as grand and comfortable today as they were four decades ago.

Another thing that the Eames Soft Pad Chairs took from the Aluminum Group was variety. There are four different types of Soft Pad Chair, and each one of them is specialized and unique, all the better to fit your life more precisely.'

Eames Design
Herman Miller
Smart Furniture - J Erwin Miller
Scott Howard
Mid Centuria

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