Eames Soft Pad Chair 217

History of the Eames Soft Pad Chair 217
History of the Eames Soft Pad Chair 217

Another Charles and Ray Eames Classic

Charles and Ray worked for longer and harder than most of their contemporaries so it is not surprising that they managed to produce the office chair that midcentury collectors swear by for comfort.

The Soft Pad evolved from the Aluminium Group which was originally designed for the American industrialist J. Irwin Miller who needed a good outdoor chair to sit visiting dignitaries in after he commissioned Eero Saarinen to design him a house in Indiana.

The Eameses went a step further and created a multi-tasking chair (with Alexander Girard consulting on fabrics) that could be used inside and outside as well as around a table.

A masterful piece of engineering, the 1958 cast aluminium chair has a seat frame with a continuous piece of synthetic mesh stretched between its ergonomically curved aluminium ribs. Its comfort pocket, inspired by hammocks and camp chairs made the chairs lighter and more comfortable than the traditional upholstered wooden or metal-backed office chairs available at the time.

The curve on the strengthening horizontal metal rib sits away from the body at the back and doubles as a handle which allows you to pull the office chair inside or outside, or from your desk to a meeting room or a collaborator’s workspace.

The Eameses were always willing to learn, allowing materials to dictate and designs to evolve in front of them. In one early archive image where Charles is seen photographing a Soft Pad upholstered in wool with a lifted pin-tucked edge, you see the pillows of the design sagging a little.

Even though customers occasionally ordered or reupholstered Soft Pads in their own fabric, the intended final designs were in leather, plumper thanks to extra foam filling and made more durable with a flattened double-stitched edge. This type of stitch took twice as long to achieve, using two different sewing machines.

Last update on 2020-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Written by Simon
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'. I have life long interest in creative design, art and function and this website is an exploration of that in all its forms and guises.