Diane Pham

The Iconic Eames Shell Chair is Now Available in New Recyclable Fiberglass!

by , 05/06/14

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In a furniture lineup, few chairs are be as recognizable as the Eames Molded Fiberglass Chair. This design, by everyone’s favorite Modernist design duo Charles and Ray Eames, has become one of the most exalted works of mid-century modernism, sought after by design enthusiasts everywhere. First released in 1950 by Herman Miller, the Eames chair shell was originally manufactured in fiberglass but the material was eventually abandoned in the 1990s due to concerns associated with fiberglass being, in Ray Eames’ words, “detrimental to the environment”. Though the chair has continued to be produced in 100% recyclable polypropylene, collectors’ love for the original fiberglass iteration has stayed strong throughout the decades, prompting Herman Miller to see if they could come up with a more sustainable version of the original fiberglass shell. Now, nearly a quarter century later, this most iconic of chairs is returning to its original material roots, thanks to more environmentally-friendly developments in manufacturing technology. Herman Miller has just released its brand new Eames Molded Fiberglass Shell Chair in eight eye-catching vintage colors, fully configurable to suit personal tastes. Keep reading to learn the history behind this famed chair, how Herman Miller is keeping with the Eames’ eco-conscious vision, and where to purchase one of these newly minted icons!

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Inhabitot, Petey, lounging in an Eames recyclable polypropylene molded chair

The Eames Shell Chair evolved from the Molded Plywood Chair, which was introduced in the 1946. Originally, the chair was constructed from fiberglass, but due to the environmental impact of this material (it can’t be recycled, and in manufacturing and handling it can lead to potentially hazardous air emissions, spent solvents, and other wastes) production was suspended in 1993. Unsurprisingly, with their limited availability, the fiberglass chairs immediately became vintage treasures, hotly sought after by modern design lovers across the globe. Production of the chair kicked up again in 2004, but in place of fiberglass, Herman Miller began using 100% recyclable polypropylene. Though the form of the chair remained the same, the new material lent to a more subtle matte texture and softer tactility.

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The Eames Molded Plastic Side chair upholstered in Alexander Girard’s Hopsak fabric

Even with the new plastic version readily available, demand for the fiberglass originals remained steady. As such, last year, Herman Miller announced that they would create an environmentally-friendly and recyclable fiberglass version of the chair. Thanks to a new proprietary process of producing fiberglass, the company can again produce the iconic shell chair in fiberglass by means of a less volatile, monomer-free “dry bind” method. This has also eliminated the need for thermal oxidizers and other environmental control equipment in the production process. Combined with a new “monomer-free” resin, production of the new fiberglass chairs is emission-free and creates a safer environment for the workers handling it.

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The Eames Molded Fiberglass Shell Chair was recently release and comes in eight new vintage colors. Like the originals, the new fiberglass shell chair boasts the same glossy finish and tell-tale fiberglass striations that have attracted vintage collectors for years. The Eames Molded Fiberglass Shell Chair can also be recycled through the Herman Miller Take Back Program.

You can purchase the chair in both the arm and side chair formats and they can be configured with your choice of wire, dowel leg, stacking, rocker, or 4-leg bases. You can also further customize your chair with one of the many tailored Hopsak fabrics designed by Alexander Girard, Herman Miller’s Textile Director from 1952 to 1973. Check out the Herman Miller Store for all the amazing options available.

+ Herman Miller

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3 Comments

  1. jwarrant May 12, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Interesting… Herman Miller has been bad-mouthing fiberglass for years trying to sell their (cheaper to make) polypropylene knock-offs, but manufacturers making it the old-fashioned way started to cut into their business. Making fiberglass with “dry-batch” SMC or raw fibers does not make any difference as far as emissions go; neither one is worse for the environment than driving a car down the street. Sounds like corporate double-speak for trying to make the same chairs with cheaper, faster methods. I doubt they look nearly as good as vintage originals made with the old machines.

  2. Emilie Basto May 9, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Nice design. I think that could match with the graphic collection of Delightfull. Together they can make a great interior

  3. Tafline Laylin Tafline Laylin April 7, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Stylish! Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

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