Purchasing a licensed reproduction Eames lounge chair and ottoman from Herman Miller in the United States or Vitra in Europe carries a hefty price tag (over $7,500 on average), and yes, I say ‘licensed reproduction,’ because unless you are fortunate enough to find a vintage Eames chair in a garage sale or on eBay, it is technically a reproduction, under license, of the original design.
One could argue that Eames was to furniture design what Volkswagen was to automobile design – functional, long-lasting, and aesthetically pleasing. With the exception of their lounge chair and ottoman, which have always commanded a premium price since its introduction in 1956, the Eames philosophy was to create furniture that was affordable to the masses.
The market for Eames chairs reproduction has grown over the decades, fueled by demand and the high cost of licensed versions.
Purists of design have (grudgingly) accepted that some reproductions are fairly accurate to the specifications and quality of the original design; however, how does one choose a good quality reproduction Eames lounge chair from the minefield of poorer copies and more cheaply made imitations that frequently flood the market?
Here’s The Buyer’s Guide To Selecting A Replica Eames Lounge Chair:
There are many websites that appear slick and have all the bells and whistles, but they may be based internationally and/or do not have physical stock. You should ideally buy from a company that you can call or email to discuss any aspect in greater detail, and who can provide visibility and a track record.
First, check the website and the retailer.
Look at their Contact pages to see where they are located and do a little more research on them.
- Is there a trading address listed for them? Is it possible to contact them other than through a generic ‘contact us form?
- Is it a registered company? Examine Companies House.
When shopping online, read the descriptions VERY carefully.
Unscrupulous sellers will try to pass off cheaper chairs by masking the description with carefully chosen words.
- Is it made of leather? ‘Leatherette,’ ‘faux leather,’ PU leather, ‘leather seat,’ or ‘leather pad’ are not acceptable terms. Be wary of very small print, and look for Piping in PVC, as this means the piping trim on the seat edge may not be full leather, and PU frays and wears off quickly.
- What kind of leather is it? Quality varies, as it does with any material. Chinese leathers, for example, are frequently thinner and less supply than premium European aniline leathers.
- Is it possible to adjust the feet individually? Consider an uneven floor or using the chair on a rug or wooden floor; you must be able to adjust each foot pad separately on both the chair and the ottoman.
Laminate is frequently used in low-cost copies.
Quality reproductions will use real and high-quality wood for veneers, so each chair will differ because it is a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture with its own unique grain pattern from the piece of wood used.
Screws that are visible.
None, especially on the rear shell braces, should be visible. This is a dead giveaway of shoddy workmanship.
Is it self-assembling?
Order a flat-packed imitation if you want to be completely insane. High-end Eames lounge chair replicas should arrive fully assembled.
Take a look at the overall appearance.
The angle of the chair and base (it was designed to sit at a slight tilt backward of approximately 15deg), the size and shape of the accessories, the flowering depth from the seat cushion buttons, the finish on the brackets on the chair back, the thickness of the cushions, the piping and trim will all be true to the original.
It is also a low-profile chair and not a large piece of furniture, making it appropriate for a variety of room settings. It is not heavy or cumbersome. Because it is not a tall chair, if you are 6ft or taller, you may not get neck and head support when sitting upright.
The main issue that can arise with both originals and reproductions over time is that the shock mounts, which are located under the armrests, can occasionally fail and separate from the lower backshell to which they are attached.
It is best not to sit or lean heavily on the armrests on a regular basis to avoid putting pressure on the shock mount component (something to note perhaps if teens are in the house)
There is a wealth of information available online about these chairs, so do some research to help you decide on the base, leather, and veneer you want.