The Eames Lounge Chair is probably the single most iconic piece of  high modernist furniture ever made. Designed by famed modernist designer couple Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company, the Lounge’s sleek wooden curves and sumptuous leather have pretty much become a byword for wealth and luxury in the design world. In fact, the Lounge Chair was the first luxury product Charles and Ray Eames designed. Check out the original 1956 commercial for the chair that showcases its modular construction, plus a vintage interview with Charles Eames and a modern version of the first ad.

The chair made its debut on the Arlene Francis “Home” show, broadcast on NBC. In the original TV clip, a bashful yet dashing Charles Eames explains his design philosophy. “We’ve never designed for a fashion or to fit in with fashion,” Eames says, the designers created their own market for their products and Herman Miller never pushed them to conform. Check out the clip below, in which the Lounge Chair is presented on a glowing platform like the icon it was to become. Seeing fifties TV is pretty surreal, too.

Wikipedia notes that when it was first made, Ray Eames remarked in a letter to Charles that the Lounge Chair looked “comfortable and un-designy (sic).” The approachable aesthetic came from the chair’s inspirational source: Charles’s vision was “for a chair with the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.”

The Eames Lounge Chair has remained in the spotlight ever since, and probably features in every Dwell magazine photo shoot you’ve ever seen. The fact that the chairs are extremely comfortable as well as aesthetically and structurally innovative makes for the full package. There’s more than a hint of the chair’s luxury cache in a contemporary video of the manufacturing of a Eames Lounge Chair (seen at bottom), filmed in the Vitra Atelier. The super zoomed-in elegance and classiness definitely makes me drool a little bit.

You can totally design your own Eames Lounge Chair on Herman Miller’s website, with your choice of wood and leather. That doesn’t mean you can afford it though. Booo.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...