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Furniture Spotlight: Eames Lounge Chair

What can we possibly say about the Eames Lounge Chair that hasn’t already been said before?

There’s not a collection of modernist furniture design anywhere that doesn’t feature the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman — and this is certainly the case with the curated furnishings in every Optima community. It’s always a pleasure to spotlight this timelessly beautiful expression of art, architecture, materiality and technology that sprang from the creative genius of Charles and Ray Eames.

Enter the Kazam! Machine

To appreciate the evolution of the Eames Lounge Chair, it’s helpful to understand the design process that Charles and Ray employed. It began when the couple turned their Los Angeles apartment into a workshop in 1941 and began building a device for molding plywood. Their goal at the time was to develop the capacity to apply pressure to plywood without breaking it, which would give them the opportunity to produce a host of objects that interested them at the time — chairs, sculptures, aircraft parts, leg splints and children’s furniture and toys. After many attempts and failures, the Eameses mastered the three-dimensional molding process with an apparatus for bending wood — a kind of curing oven made from wood scraps and spare bicycle parts. They called it the Kazam! machine. With its hinged and bolted curving plaster mold, the Kazam! machine allowed them to create a glued sandwich consisting of several layers of veneer, which was then pushed against the plaster mold by a membrane which, in its turn, was manually inflated by a bicycle pump.

The Kazam! Machine

The Kazam! Machine

Putting the Kazam! to Work
First produced in 1956, the iconic Eames Lounge Chair draws inspiration from a classic English Club Chair. It consists of a bent-wood frame atop a six-legged base, constructed using the Kazam! machine, and tilted at an optimal angle for comfort and ergonomics. It’s topped with supple leather, which the Eameses described as providing “the warm redemptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt,” in their vision to make the chair “a special refuge from the strains of modern living.”

A Standout from the Start

In an unprecedented marketing move, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman debuted on national television in 1956. Charles and Ray Eames appeared on Home, the NBC daytime television show hosted by Arlene Francis. Aided by the warmth, charisma and humor of the Eames’, the American television viewing audience immediately fell in love with the Eames Chair. Today, nearly 70 years later, it remains one of the most significant furniture designs of the twentieth century.

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Part of the permanent collections at New York’s MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chair and Ottoman have been the subject of numerous documentary films and books, and continue to be featured prominently in contemporary design curation.

Iconic and Forever Fresh

Authentic Eames Chairs are still manufactured by Herman Miller today, much as they were in 1956. And while the Kazam! process has been streamlined and updated, it remains much the same as it was when the Eames first conceived it in their LA living room — ensuring that these uniquely timeless objects of desire remain a special refuge from the strains of modern living.

Taking Art Online: How to Visit Fan-Favorite Museums Digitally

As art enthusiasts, we know a trip to the museum can provide much needed inspiration and solace. While many physical cultural institutions have closed their doors as we shelter-in-place, their doors remain very much open online. Today, we’re sharing how our favorite museums have been taking art online, and how you can visit iconic global institutions digitally.

J Paul Getty Museum

Take a trip to sunny LA with digital museum tours offered by the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Their expansive collection of 6,000+ works makes the museum worth the visit on any ordinary day, but through Google Arts and Culture, you can actually physically “mouse” your way through the galleries via an interactive online museum tour, or scroll through three online exhibits and 15,000+ artistic works.

Vatican Museums

While sheltering-in-place, the options for online exploration are limitless. Traverse internationally across the interwebs to place yourself via computer into the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy. Explore the Sistine Chapel, impressive architectural details, intricate murals and an astounding array of artwork via their online virtual tours featuring expansive, 360-degree views. Afterwards, you can even take an “outdoor stroll” around the Vatican City with You Visit.

Picasso Museum

In keeping up with our love of Picasso, we recommend spending a few hours online at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain. A seemingly-endless digital archive of Pablo Picasso’s most renowned works is accompanied by some of the best-preserved Medieval architecture in Barcelona. Enter the museum through its ancient and rustic patios to discover the digital treasures within via this digital interactive tour.

Art Institute of Chicago

Missing visits to your local favorite? Have no fear, because the Art Institute of Chicago is bringing the comforts of a familiar gallery to your couch. Their array of online resources include ways to surf the entire museum collection, new and highly-detailed interactive features, a digitized version of their current special exhibit and more. 

As we continue to spend our days at home, virtual trips to explore the arts and culture provide a much needed vibrant reprieve. Stay tuned for more Optima features on how to stay engaged, connected and inspired at home. 

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