The designs of Charles and Ray Eames have certainly graced the homes of people the world over but what about the workplace?
Well in regards to Eames workplace furniture, it could possibly be argued that most of the designs of Charles and Ray were never originally intended for workplace use but they were developed and evolved into being so. Afterall, if you take a design with enormous versatility, functionality, style and comfort then it is only a matter of time before it would be adapted. From conference tables to executive seating, draftsman’s stools to storage solutions, the designs of Charles and Ray Eames were certainly more than good enough for any workplace.
The Alu Group and (later) Soft Pad range of chairs are almost certainly the most famous Eames workplace designs. These glorious work chairs, often of Leather and Naugahyde, were flanked with arms and frame of shiny brushed aluminum, a truly stylish vision. But they did not start life this way, in fact they were made for the home and for using both indoors and out.
The original Alu Group range were intended as dining chairs, loungers and recliners too. It was only later, into the 1960’s that Herman Miller recognized the potential of the emerging market for office and commercial lines of furniture. The Alu Group Chairs were re-born, modeled and phased into executive office seating with built in swivels, height adjustments and tilting. The introduction of leather would give the chairs the style and look of power and prestige. Available as the management low back chair or executive high back model, the Alu Group has re-defined office seating ever since and its inspiration is clear to see in the designs of today.
By 1968 and the Soft Pad range of chairs had also been released, mirroring the models of the Alu Group but with added cushions and sporting a look of contemporary class. Driven by the commercial market for stylish and yet functional work chairs, the Soft Pad series would bring added levels of comfort to that of the Alu Group. As part of the evolution of the Soft Pad Series, the Eames Intermediate Chair was also released for a short time and intended as a simple but highly effective alternative workplace chair.
The drive into the workplace market would also see the popular and beautiful Time Life (Lobby) chair tweaked and adjusted from its original lounger model into a desk chair, complete with rolling wheels if required. Described simply as Eames Executive Seating, the Time Life Desk Chair is quite simply the pinnacle of getting all the ingredients right in a design; style, comfort, quality, functionality and a little bit of a wow factor all rolled in.
The first Eames designs to be adapted for the Workplace were those of the fiberglass and K-Wire series. We already know how versatile the fiberglass chairs were, so it was no surprise that they found multiple function in the workplace too. The early models of the PSC, PAC and DAT would turn the fiberglass arm or side chair into a desk chair with the added functionality of being able to tilt or change height, something which was important for long term use. Dedicated stool bases were designed for the fiberglass sides and arms in order to create working chairs for draftsmen and padded and cushioned adaptations were produced for desk and secretary chairs. Into the 1970's and the hugely versatile Universal Base had also been added to the fiberglass side and arm chairs, providing the possibility of castor wheels or glides, perfect for the workplace.
The Eames Desk Unit (EDU) was the only marketed work desk that Charles Eames produced which is a shame considering just how unique and stylish the design was. It was however on the small side and was perhaps more suited to the home than the professional workplace.
Lastly but not least, it would just not be possible to discuss Eames workplace furniture designs without mentioning the plethora of tables Herman Miller has produced over the years. The early Eames Contract and (later) Universal based tables for the home or workplace were so adaptable, so versatile that they were utilized literally everywhere. Into the 1960’s and the demand for large conference tables and work tables meant a solution needed to be found and this came in the shape of the Segmented Base Tables. A super intelligent system of base components meant that the Segmented Table could be singular and small or doubled, tripled or quadrupled into large conference and workplace layouts. It was literally available in all manner of sizes and shapes with full customization.