Real vs. Fake: The Eames Lounge

beware-of-imitations

I know this post is kind of a departure from my regular programming ’round these parts, but what can I say? It’s Monday, it’s almost the end of March, it’s snowing, possibly this is the rapture, my apartment building has no heat, and I woke up feeling like it was high time to nerd out over chairs.

So. Remember how I used to have a fake Eames lounge chair? Back when my living room looked like this:

enje

Yeah. Well. When we received the very special things from my grandparents’ house, there was a brief hot second when I had two Eames lounge chairs—the real deal, straight out of Zeeland, Michigan circa 1972, and the fakey guy who I think was manufactured by Plycraft, probably a few years later.

“Reproductions” and “replicas” and “inspired-by” designs have been around for forever, but it seems like only in more recent years have these unauthorized replicas inched closer and closer to looking like the real thing. Now. There is a whooooollllleeee long debate to be had about “real” vs. “fake” and the legal standing of intellectual property surrounding furniture designs and who is getting ripped off and how and what this means for society and design and quality and whether the sky is blue. Frankly, I’d rather not get into that because everybody has their own opinions and I find that type of squabbling annoying. Personally, I can’t picture myself buying a newly-produced knock-off piece of furniture for a number of reasons, but I think the rules change a little when you’re talking vintage and secondhand. Nobody’s getting hurt, it isn’t perpetuating the lousy knock-off furniture industry—it’s just good clean old-fashioned thrifty fun times. I support that.

Point is, people often wonder what the differences are between authentic and knock-off furniture—Eames lounge chairs, specifically—and it’s hard to find a good guide explaining it. So being in the unique position of owning both concurrently, I thought it would be a good time to put together a little show and tell.

frontback

The first thing you’ll notice is that the knock-off Plycraft (left) is huge. This is a pretty standard issue with knock-off furniture: getting the proportions all wrong. One of the many things the Eames’s did very well was scale—the 670 has all the comfort of a larger lounge chair, but is really only as big as it needs to be without sacrificing comfort. The elimination of that kind of bulk is a big part of its charm. Even modern-day knock-offs are usually too big or just proportionally super weird.

bases

The base is often the most telling difference between an authentic chair and a knock-off. Vintage knock-offs usually have a base like Plycraft, or a flat chrome X base. The Herman Miller base is powdercoated black with chrome on the top, and each foot has a height adjustment to accommodate uneven flooring. Clever!

Modern knock-offs usually get the base wrong by designing the legs with an incline that’s way too steep. It makes the chair look like it’s frightened or standing on tip-toes, which is just not all that pretty.

tilt

The design of the base also affects the incline of the chair. Vintage knock-offs (and some modern ones) try to make the chair into more of a recliner by adding a spring mechanism that allows it to tilt forward and back, but the base position is much more upright than the 670. The real chair is at a constant stationary position that’s something between upright and reclining. The wood shells and rubber shockmounts give the chair a little flex, but it doesn’t actually tilt at all. Some people find this prescribed positioning wildly uncomfortable, but that’s a matter of personal taste. I found the Plycraft chair really uncomfortable because it required effort to tilt back and remain there, so as soon as I took my feet off the ottoman it would spring forward to its upright position. The 670, for me, really is just right. I love that thing.

sideshock

The biggest difference, structurally, between vintage knock-offs and the real thing is that the plywood shells on the Eames chair are continuous, without any exposed hardware (except, of course, the vertical braces holding together the middle and top shell). Charles and Ray Eames are known for their honest use of materials and exposed structure, but they also believed in elegant solutions to vexing engineering problems—like how to hold this gorgeous thing together. The solution they came up with was the rubber shockmount, which is basically a metal disc encased in rubber. The Eames lounge has 4 oval shockmounts, bonded to the inside of the wood shell at the upper tips of the bottom shell and the “ears” of the middle shell. A black metal plate attaches to both shockmounts on each side, and then the upholstered armrest is fitted on top of the metal plate and secured from underneath. That’s a little hard to explain.

The knock-off chair, however, just says fuck it! and screws directly through the wood shell from the outside instead of into shockmounts from the inside. Make sense? Additionally, the cushions in the authentic chair are secured by clips on the inside of the wood shells and the backside of the cushions, whereas the cushions on the knock-off chair are held on by small screws that go through the shell and into the back of the cushion (which in this case is a lower-quality, thinner plywood shell covered in foam and leather). This all adds up to plywood shells that look OK from afar but are actually covered in screws holding everything together. Not so elegant, but it gets the job done.

backs

Often vintage knock-offs will have a small metal brace between the bottom shell and the middle shell, which takes some pressure off the sides as the main structural support. Whereas the authentic 670 gives the impression of three floating wood shells, it’s pretty plainly obvious how the knock-off works.

Most modern knock-offs look more like the originals because they’ve gotten more ballsy about directly copying both the style and the engineering of the original chair. This is partly where the problem of “quality” comes in, because even the Herman Miller chair is prone to problems. Tragic, horrible problems. Like so.

Broken

I debated even sharing this because it was pretty sad and SUCH a headache, but here you go. Consider yourself warned.

The main engineering failure of the 670 is that it relies solely on the adhesion of four rubber shockmounts to support the weight of a human being reclining in it. What I really wish I had known is that after about 40 years, give or take a few, the rubber tends to shrink and become brittle and the adhesive tends to fail. So, one day, a person—say, your adorable boyfriend named Max—decides to sit in the chair. The bond between the shockmount and the shell fails on one side, putting the pressure of all his weight on the remaining side. In the course of a split second, the middle shell swings backward under the weight, bends, and snaps completely in two. You hear a sickening sound from the next room and know something terrible has happened. You enter the room to find your boyfriend on the floor, your chair lying in a depressing, crumpled mess around him.

I may not have many strengths, but I have one that I’m fairly confident about: I don’t cry over spilt milk. Which is a stupid saying, because really, who would? But for somebody as into stuff and pretty little things as I am, I really don’t sweat it too much when stuff breaks. I break things with decent enough frequency to recover pretty fast. Shattered dish? Whatever. Ink stain on my favorite shirt? Shit happens. Cherished Eames 670 lounge chair inherited from my grandparents?

This was a tough pill to swallow. We’d only had the chair about a month or so, and it had been all smooth sailing and fancy recline-y times, and now it was totally broken and unusable.

My grandparents weren’t the sorts of people who were all that precious about stuff, and I think that’s healthy. For everything the chair symbolized and recalled for me, it is, ultimately, just a thing. It isn’t my grandparents and it isn’t my memories. It’s metal and wood and leather and foam and rubber and some stupid glue that just didn’t hold. Which is shitty, but not as shitty as a lot of other things that are shitty. So there weren’t any tears or real dramatics. We just picked up the pieces, disassembled the whole thing, and got to work trying to figure out what to do.

I found out that this isn’t altogether uncommon. It happens mostly to vintage chairs, but even some new chairs as well. Turns out that Herman Miller only warrantees the shockmounts for 3 years, and after that, you’re on your own. I don’t blame the Eames’s for this—after all, this chair was produced in 1956 and was totally revolutionary at the time. The shockmount technology was an innovative and incredibly elegant solution, and it seemed strong. It did last for 40 years on this chair, to its credit, and had I known that this might happen I would have had the shocks replaced preemptively.

I asked a lot of smart, wood-worky people about what it would take to fix the broken shell, and the news was pretty consistently disappointing. Because the wood breaks at a major stress point, it isn’t something that a little wood epoxy can really fix, and the repair is highly specialized and expensive. A new shell can be ordered from a couple third-party retailers, but I couldn’t imagine that the new shell would match the 40 year old sun-faded rosewood veneer of the remaining original shells. Herman Miller recommends buying an entirely new set of shells from them (the design has changed slightly, and I was told that the new 7-ply shells don’t interface properly with the old 5-ply ones), but that was basically the cost of a new chair and was even more depressing because all I really wanted to do was repair my grandparents’ chair, maintaining as much of the original materials as possible but making it functional, strong, and something I wouldn’t have to worry about. The last thing I want in my living space is something I’m scared to use or uptight about other people using. I don’t believe in “showpieces,” and this chair is no exception.

I even considered this DIY fix, which sounded kind of amazing until I read in other places that it wasn’t likely to hold for very long, at which point the shell really would be irreparable.

So we saved up and let the chair sit in sad pieces for a while before finally biting the bullet and getting the repair done by Olek Lejbzon, a furniture restoration company in New Jersey who specialize in this repair.

ear

If you click the link, you can see that this repair wasn’t done with quite as much finesse as advertised. If I were more concerned about maintaining the monetary value of the chair for resale or whatever, I probably would have been pissed with how obviously mis-matched the grain patterns are and all that, but honestly? I don’t care. The work has a great guarantee and I think was the best solution for us. It seems really strong, and most importantly I can sit in the chair without feeling like I could break it at any moment.

There’s a certain honesty about it, too. It isn’t perfect, but that’s what gives it history. It was my grandparents’ chair, and then it was mine, and then it broke and I did what I could to make it whole again. And it’s all right there, in that awkward little line where something will never look quite right again. And that’s OK.


72 Comments

  1. The delicious irony of an eames replica sales site ad right below this post..!

    I think your attitude is completely right. Totally wincing at that photo of it sad and broken,

    • Ewwww re: the ad. Let me see what I can do about that!! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • I have a geoform eames chair which looks like the real one except on base of chair part there are covered screw caps that match the wood grain. Is it real?

      • Uh….I’m not really sure what you’re talking about. If you’re saying geoform is the name of the manufacturer, then no–it is an unlicensed reproduction, a.k.a. a knock-off. I believe the only licensed manufacturers of the chair are Herman Miller and Vitra.

  2. I have a knock-off LCW (which has obvious differences from an authentic one), but it’s at least on the same scale as the original. I see plycraft models for sale all the time, but had no idea they were THAT mis-proportioned. Very sorry to hear about the damage to your HM one, but truly happy to see that you were able to have it repaired. Imperfections are irrelevant if the piece has history that resounds with you. And now Max has left his mark on your chair as well :)

  3. OH god, I would have cried over spilled milk. I’m glad you guys got it fixed though! As far as the real versus fake, it’s nice that the Eames lounger is still being produced, but most people can’t drop a few grand on one. Good design doesn’t have to be expensive, so really I have no issues with buying reproductions. Although I always try to see if I can find vintage versus new, repro or not.

    • I FULLY understand that the real Eames lounge is prohibitively expensive for most people, and you’re totally right that good design doesn’t have to be expensive! That’s why I prefer to buy vintage, or if I’m going to buy something new, I’d rather support a company that values original designs and the work of the designers who create them.

      I guess I just don’t consider most reproductions—which are generally not built to the designers’ specifications, use cheap materials, usually cheap labor, steal the intellectual property of living and dead designers, and disenfranchise original manufacturers—”good design.”

      • EXACTLY. If you like the knock offs, go for it but they really do not compare with regards to design, as your post clearly illustrates.

      • I think it is important to take into consideration that these pieces “live” with us for a very long time and are beautiful during that time. Quality does have a price.

      • Absolutely, a buyer needs to recognise the difference between aesthetics and ‘good design’. Buying something because it looks good and like the real thing and leaving it at that can be an expensive mistake, regardless of how much cheaper it was. I have so much love for what the original designs represent that I would rather not have the knock off even if I could never afford the original – I would resent its presence in my home!

        Great detail in the post, thanks very much!

  4. Oh I’m so sorry your Eames chair broke. When I saw the photo, I thought “Oh noOOoo!”. My heart broke right there with you. But I’m so glad you shared it with us. And the comparisons and repair process is very interesting. While the grain is off, the color is just right. A glaring difference is color is what the eye will notice first. And I think you’re attitude is right on the mark. Accept your sadness about it and then move on. I think I love the chair that much more because of all these experiences with it.

  5. I have sat in an original, and boy are they comfortable! I’m glad you were able to repair the chair. If I was in your position I might have had a harder time dealing with the incident!

  6. Great attitude, great post. Thanks for doing the side-by-side and then taking us on the repair journey. Very interesting comparison and I’m glad you’ve reconciled with the chair’s idiosyncrasies.

  7. i’m so glad you wrote this post – i loved it!! i love your compromise at the end, repairing the chair as elegantly as possible (within reason) and still maintaining the original structure/history. you are so thoughtful and down to earth, Max is a lucky guy!!

  8. It is a nice chair. Been looking for one second hand for years. Nevertheless. That ad– for a store called “Thrive – HOME FURNISHINGS” is now located between your story and the comments.

    • Those ads are GoogleAds, and unfortunately I don’t have a lot of control over what they display (it’s automatically generated based both on the content of the post and your search history, I believe.). Thrive doesn’t seem so bad, though—looks like the majority of their furniture is made to recall a mid-century style, but I only see a few couple pieces that look like they’re actually mimicking recognizable mid-century designs. I’ve also heard good things about their service and quality for their original pieces, and they make their furniture in the US.

      Placing GoogleAds on my site wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but at the end of the day they’re part of what keep this site running. I apologize if they occasionally seem out of sync with the content or are visually annoying.

  9. Have you heard of the Japanese idea of Wabi-Sabi (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi)? That’s what your now-imperfect chair, and your attitude, reminded me of while reading this. Excellent story, sorry you had to go through that, but glad it worked out ok.

  10. Ah. I remember on twitter (or maybe even here on the blog) you said something about running to New Jersey to fix an Eames lounge. At the time I was like, “Why go to all that trouble and expense for his knock-off chair he got for cheap?” – now it makes sense. Looks good enough!

  11. How timely! I was just searching for this info on Saturday after buying a vintage knock-off lounge chair at a tag sale. I was immediately accosted by a couple offering to buy it from me for more than I paid. But the guy was a little too “it’s gonna need so much work / cost so much money” and then I felt a personal challenge to prove him wrong. Because I’m mental like that. Also I’m not a moron & can tell the difference between rusted upholstery buttons & structural damage.

    I could tell it was a knock-off because of the base but I still wanted to know what the other differences are. The headrest on mine doesn’t have any screws but has little clips to hold it in place. Interested to go home and compare it with photos of your knock-off.

    When I took the headrest off, there was a date stamp for 1977 underneath so I’m assuming that’s when the chair was manufactured. I’m not a huge fan of modern day knock-offs but vintage feels different. It’s pretty rare to find vintage originals in my neck of the woods and, when I do, they are usually out of my price range. The leather on the ottoman is shot so I’m planning to reupholster the whole thing… since it’s a knock-off, I don’t feel the need to treat it too precious. Like it doesn’t have to meet all the standards because it’s standards are already lower. If that makes sense. But the wood and everything else is in excellent shape. And I figured I couldn’t go wrong for <$100.

    I think you made the right choice to fix your grandfather's chair. Even if it's not perfect, you still have a beautiful piece with a personal history. :)

    • Oh, I totally understand! I was planning to reupholster mine, too, but then I just sold it instead. That’s definitely a benefit of vintage knock-offs or vintage furniture, generally—it’s usually not a big loss if it gets messed up, and you feel better about having fun with it! I’ve seen some crazzzzy upholstery jobs on real and fake Eames lounge chairs that look amazing.

  12. What a beautiful and right-on post, from start to finish. Bravo! I really love your attitude about the whole episode.

  13. You have a great attitude, Daniel. If it were me, I might be curled up in a ball crying, and then I wouldn’t share the story with anyone. And the restored chair looks great!

  14. sad face. but actually, having it break makes it a little less precious, in a good way. interesting to see the comparison, thanks for putting them side by side!

  15. We have an Eames Lounge Chair we inherited from my grandparents, and this post has made me totally paranoid! I’m going to have to research replacing the shock mounts..

    But I love that repair. I agree that it’s totally honest, and makes it unique, too. I’m the type of person who embraces scratches on my things, because it makes it “mine”. It gives it a history and an individuality that a new, beautiful, out-of-box thing doesn’t have.

    • I’m sorry to make you paranoid!! But you should watch out—if it seems like the rubber is separating from the wood AT ALL, or the rubber looks dry and brittle, you should really look into getting the shocks replaced. I’ve heard good things about Hume Modern, though it looks like he has a bit of a rivalry with the guys I used. It’s expensive, but worth it in the long term if you don’t ALSO need a wood repair!

  16. I have both original Eames pieces and disgusting, hang my head in shame knock-offs. I will regret buying the fakes forever. There really is no comparison in quality and feel.

    In my eyes the repair of your chair is remarkable. Especially when I look at the before (oh, the horror.) I can’t imagine that they would have ever been able to match the grain and they did do an amazing job with matching the color. The chair is beautiful.

  17. WTF? We are living parallel Eames Lounge Chair lives. I warned you about this in your last post, but unbeknownst to me it had already happened to you. I’m so sorry.

    Your last paragraph summarized EXACTLY how I feel about the whole situation. I want to keep the history intact – and if that means I’m left with an awkward little line so be it. Thank you for this post!

  18. You made a great spin on it. The photos at first broke my heart but I’m glad it worked out for the most part. Think about it though—now you’ve added your own story to the chair’s history with the marks to prove it. It has character!

  19. Oh Daniel….I honestly almost cried for you. I totally agree with everything you’ve discussed here but I think if I saw that broken chair scene before me, I would have cried. My basement was flooded this past spring and the only things that got wrecked were the bassinette my first born daughter slept in as a newborn and her swing/bouncy chair thing. It was the bassinette that got me – I just looked at this sad, wet, mouldy thing and thought of her sweet, little infant self in there and cried. It wasn’t that expensive and I have since replaced it but there was just something about that memory of her as a newborn juxtaposed with this sad looking object in front of me that was just so sad. I cried and then I was ok. I think it’s ok to be sad about material things breaking, especially when there is such a strong memory attached to them, in the same way that it’s amazingly joyous when they are repaired and ‘scarred’ in the way your chair now is. I own a vintage, fibreglass Eames rocker shell with the straight, metal legs (can’t remember the proper name for this chair/legs). I wanted it forever and I paid for it bit by bit over the course of 4 months to a vintage furniture place in town. With tax it was about $400 (CDN dollars) – I’ve never regretted it. It’s also the single most expensive thing I’ve bought for our entire house (excluding our couch which was a $600 Ikea special). It’s surprisingly, and rather amazingly comfortable, I feel happy when I look at it, and every morning my toddler daughter sits in it while I put her boots and coat on. I love the look and feel of the fibreglass and it contours to your back in a way that is totally surprising. I hope that my daughter will inherit it one day and cherish it just like you do yours. Great post, you rock Daniel.

  20. I can’t believe it broke! I would have been pretty choked about the repair after seeing the nearly flawless on the website. It is functional now, just seems patchier than before :(.

  21. I don’t mind the fix either, I think it gives it new history. Some day, the chair won’t be yours any more, and some lucky person that inherits it will touch those mismatched spots and think of you and Max specifically. Or maybe I’m just a total cheese ball.

    I saw something about repairing shock mounts when I was preparing to pick up a set of 6 fiberglass chairs from craig’s list ($150 total! maybe the real deal, but the seller’s wife gave them away hours before I was supposed to pick them up). Anyway, the place I read about them was here: http://plastolux.com/ and they also have info on other aspects of restoring chairs, but I haven’t seen any lounges.

  22. OOOOOOH NOOO, when it broke my heart shattered :’( It’s not even my chair! I am so glad you got it fixed! I really hope one day I can afford a real one, not a reproduction but to be honest I don’t think that will happen anytime soon ;)

    I also agree with many of the above comments about the little repair line giving it history!

  23. Ohmygosh I totally believed you were going to end this post by telling us there was no hope and you threw it away. Holycow. You had me on the edge of my seat.

    Thank you once again, Daniel, for an altogether informative and enjoyable post. I’m so glad things worked out for you. I agree that the pieced-together shell is more charming and honest. Maybe someday your progeny will sit in this chair (after replacing the shock mounts) and point to the seam and fondly remember their sweet crazy granddads.

  24. Wow! I knew that the knock-offs didn’t look as good as the real thing, but next to each other – geez, it just looks so awful. I would have thought that the people making knock-offs would measure something, to make sure that it was at least close.
    I got to visit the factory where Eames lounges are made, and it was fantastic. They use the same plywood form for all the pieces, and have this crazy machine to cut them into the right shape.

  25. Daniel, I am so impressed by your stoicism. Particularly in the context of your last post about your grandparents, I almost cried for you when I read what happened. Glad you were able to repair it!

  26. Really glad Max didn’t hurt his back from falling off the chair and happy that the chair itself got fixed to enable more years and years of totally safe use. I’m also curious about the mismatched wood grain from the repair, was this an entirely new piece sourced for the repair, or was it reclaimed from the original chair material?

    • I’m actually not sure. I think it might be a new piece, but they might have routed out the original “ear” and laid in new layers of plywood and just had to re-veneer the outside. I don’t know!

  27. Speaking as someone who has played the Max part in this story with a (now ex-) boyfriend and lived with enormous guilt, fat jokes and serious side-eye every time we passed an urban furniture store with a certain mid-century beauty in the window, I’d say you aren’t just talking about chairs when you discuss real vs fake. Well done. But PS you could warn a person before posting graphic images like that. Jesus, my heart.

  28. Great article, well researched. And tragically heartfelt. I am so glad to see how you appreciate the restoration of your grandparents’ chair, and that we made it possible. Even though We repair both the vintage and original Eames Lounge chairs, we learned something from your article too- I hadn’t realized the difference in the scale of the chairs.

    The biggest difference between Olek and Herman Miller repairs, is seen in the warranty- Olek’s 15 years vs. Herman Miller’s 1 year. Our European cabinetmakers are far more professional disassembling the shocks from the plywood, and never damage a shell. Herman Miller doesn’t do the repairs itself, and subcontracts the work to various companies, that really don’t care if the plywood rips out with removed shocks- they just slather on more epoxy, after fatally damaging the shell and condemning it to a shorter life with the weakened shell. We show examples of this shoddy repair on our website.

    The new Olek shocks are also designed differently than the HM shocks, hence their longevity. The failure of the Olek shocks is so low, that our warranty is comprehensive- if the chair collapses and the ear breaks after our warrantied repair- we repair the damage to the chair, and repair the broken ear. So the slightly higher cost of Olek’s repair, is actually a really cheap insurance policy. Another problem is that the new Herman Miller chairs have worse shock mounts than ever. We see a disproportionately high percentage of recent HM Eames chair shock mount failures than with the old neoprene/steel shocks.

    An interesting thing about the knockoffs is that they mostly copy the European version of the chair, manufactured by Vitra, not by Herman Miller. Hence the more angular higher base legs. Herman Miller’s Eames base is actually all aluminum too, with a polished rather than brushed finish on the aluminum. No chrome on the base, or the back struts.

    I have to say we were a little aghast at our touchup work on the chair. We usually do much better, even on the inside of the chair. We maintain vintage stocks of pre-embargoed Brazilian Rosewood, helping our artists to do a better job. We would happily improve that anytime you like.

    A very interesting aspect of the reproduction chairs vs. Herman Miller, is that the new Herman Miller Eames Lounge production sports thicker plywood shells, the same ungainly thickness as the old Plycraft reproductions. And the new Chinese reproductions often adhere to the original thin plywood shells. So it can be truly difficult to see the difference between new reproductions, and the vintage Eames originals. And the new repro. Eames chairs are now often distressed to look like vintage original.

    I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to restore your Grandparents prized chair. Enjoy it!

    Regards,
    Peter

    • Thanks for your comment, Peter. I’m glad you guys were able to fix my chair, too! As we’ve discussed before (and I hope comes through in the post), I’m really happy with the repair because I don’t feel like I have to worry. And if it lasts 15, or 20, or 50 years, I’ll be REALLY happy with it. But I do appreciate the offer to refine the touch-up work, but it’s really not necessary for me. :) We really do love and enjoy the chair as-is and are just happy to have it back and usable.

      As always, your insights and expertise on this stuff are fascinating. Thanks for stopping by!

  29. Great attitude. I am glad that you did not get rid of it. This was a best case scenario for an unfortunate situation.

  30. Very interesting post and comments. Learned a lot.

  31. Excellent post. I feel for you about the chair, but good for you for having it fixed, and, what’s most important, continuing to enjoy it. That’s what having great furniture is all about.

    BTW, you correctly mentioned that this particular structural failure is not an uncommon occurrence – take a look:

    http://www.designaddict.com/design_addict/forums/index.cfm/fuseaction/thread_show_one/thread_id/8749/

    • Remarkable! I hope it works well for you. Several thousand dollars later, my professional repair had better work out as well!

  32. Oh, dear. I actually gasped out loud when I saw the picture! I’m glad you were able to find a fix.

  33. What a sad story with a happy ending and healthy outlook. Maybe I have low standards, but I think the chair still looks really great.

  34. A great story with a happy ending… but I would have loved to see the look on Max’s face in that terrible split second after the wood splintered and broke. The poor guy must have been horrified!!

    Regarding the repair I think it’s fine and adds personality to the chair. For me it is just like Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing cracks and breaks in pottery with gold lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

  35. Oh. My. God.

  36. I can’t believe that you let Max sit in that chair at all (just kidding).
    Over here (Europe) at Vitra (that produces the Lounge chair) you can buy a version of the lounge chair that is a scaled up version of the original chair by (off the top of my head) 10%. I understand the original design was made for the average height in the 50′s (I’m not sure, I thought that was 5 foot 6 or something). Over here people are -on average- 6 feet now. I am 5 feet 10 (more or less) and the scaled up version is indeed more comfortable for me. But it’s probably not widely available in trift stores etc. (jet). I do feel the chair becomes more comfortable with use.
    At the Vitra-design museum they have a workshop you can look into where you can see how they are made, it takes one day for one chair. You can order a chair from there, and watch it while it is being made. A form of performance art. Like seeing a baby being born.
    Have a wonderful day!

    • P.s. forgot to mention that all that Eamesy prettyness is even more expensive over here. The LCW (that I love) was 30% more expendive over here than in the US, the last time I checked.

  37. oh NOOO!That really blows…so envious of your lounger. Glad you chose to repair it. Heck, it’s even better now. You not only have fond memories of your grandparents with the chair, you made your own lasting memory! Poor Max, I would feel awful-though I’m sure he’s aware it wasn’t his fault. Congrats on a creating a story your kids can remember when they get your prized chair!

  38. I have very little experience with knock-offs or originals so I really appreciate you taking the time to describe the differences – so much more helpful than a blanket “don’t buy fakes” message. I would have cried over the original breaking; I hope the repair lasts a good long time.

  39. What a timely article. Similar story –

    My father died last summer and after his memorial service, the family gathered to reminisce and share a few glasses of wine. As I sat down on his 1959 Eames lounger we heard the sickening snap which reduced Dad’s chair to a Pile-O-Eames. We all felt his presence in the room and thought we might have heard his deep voice saying, “I am still watching you!”

    Interestingly, after a few months of considering options, we sent it off to Peter at Olek Restoration. We are still waiting for the chair. It might be on it’s way or maybe not. I am hoping for the best and had no idea that this break was so common until it happened to us!

  40. Interesting comparison of the fake/real, thanks for putting that together. My big takeaway is your awesome attitude about “not crying over spilt milk” because – I DO. It’s something I’m trying to change, and your outlook is a good reminder. My grandmother always says “don’t love something that can’t love you back,” but as soon as an object has special meaning for me – whether it’s pretty and expensive and I saved up for it or (especially!) if it is tied to memories of someone special, everything practical disappears and I can’t help it. Thanks for the perspective.

  41. While I’m sure the knock offs do not have the same quality and probably have proportions that are off, I wouldn’t count them out over any loyalty to the Eames’. They are long dead, their chairs have been a part of society for a very long time, and I think they would be appalled at the prices being charged today. A shell rocker was $20 in 1951. That would translate to $160 today. And that’s not even factoring in the fact that I’m sure it is much cheaper today to make them than it was in 1950. Modernica bought the equipment from Herman Miller when they stopped making the shell chairs in fiberglass. Now HM is making them in plastic and neither they nor the Eames heirs will allow Modernica to sell their chairs as authentic Eames chairs. The whole thing just stinks to me. So while I won’t buy pirated movies or music, or do anything to undercut working designers, my conscience will be clear if I choose to buy knock offs of chairs that were designed 75 years ago.

  42. While I’m generally willing to pay more for the “real thing,” within reason, I feel like the line has gotten blurred a lot of late. Two examples:* Some of the “knockoffs” that are made in Europe aren’t “knockoffs” in the true sense — they’re made by manufacturers licensed to sell that design for the European market. Should I really believe that if I buy a chair in Paris, it’s real, but if I buy the same chair in New York, it’s fake?Likewise — some of the licensed manufacturers have quietly modified ‘iconic’ designs over the years. Take the Eames shell (DS- and DA-) chairs — the ‘authentic’ Herman Miller has switched to polypropylene, while the Modernica ‘copies’ are the original Fibreglass.Of course, at the end of the day, the best answer is generally “used.” I paid less for a set of six vintage Knoll tulip chairs than DWR wants for a single new one; granted, they need some TLC, but I’ll still come out way ahead.

  43. Nice blog, helped me make up my mind-uk also has lots of replicas..going to Vitra today

  44. Question: Does anyone know if the vintage HM loungers are more durable than the currently produced? Just thinkin’ for a future purchase!

  45. Hey, nice story, classic narrative form, happy ending I hope.

    I ended up here on you blog because I just inherited an Herman Miller/Eames original from my granparents. No disasters yet.

    Funny old world.

    Enjoy it.

  46. Great post – thanks!

    One big difference between the fake and the real one that you forgot to highlight is the wood itself of course. Even the look of the grain is far superior.

    The repair is great! as a previous poster said – they matched the colour very well so it looks cool. Matching the grain would have looked weird and fakey because they wouldn’t have been able to do it perfectly – its best hey didn’t even try – the repair now tells a story – and one part of that story is how good that repair is.

  47. hi daniel,

    i’ve never considered selling my pair of original eames chairs but now that i have a new cat who was formerly the pet of a deceased family member, i am considering it now before the cat is able to do any damage. can you make a recommendation on where i should consider posting these in the los angeles area.

    the pair of chairs look like the photo above, on the right side of the woman sitting in your advert. the chair material is the original semi-orange-tan “ish” color.

    i would appreciate your advise.

    all the best,

    andrew

  48. I will say this: Plycraft lounges are infinitely more comfortable and user-friendly than the original Eames. I’m 6’2″, so that has something to do with it, but even the Plycraft is a little too short for me. The fact that the Plycraft rocks also makes it a better design in my opinion. I can choose to lean back, sit up, and anywhere in between, whereas the Eames is limited to one sitting position. The only attribute the Eames excels in is the ottoman, as it is much bigger than the Plycraft.

    • Agree to disagree! Maybe it’s just because I’m shorter, but I found the plycraft lounge SO uncomfortable! The Eames one suits me just right. :)

  49. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED THE EAMES LOUNGER, AND WHEN MY WIFE AND I UPDATED OUR LIVING ROOM FURNITURE (OUR OLD FURNITURE WAS BY VOLUME A 50% MIXTURE OF TODDLER VOMIT, DRIED MILK AND GROUND IN FISHY CRACKERS) I WAS ABLE TO ARGUE MY CASE FOR AN EAMES LOUNGER AND OTTOMAN. PROBLEM WAS THAT MY WIFE HAS NEVER APPRECIATED THE STYLE AND WAS NOT READY TO SPEND 4.5K IN CANADA FOR A REAL ONE. (OH, BUT 2K ON A CUSTOM OTTOMAN FOR THE NEW COUCH WAS OK).

    I PURCHASED A REPLICA, A.K.A. KNOCKOFF, FAKE, COPY…FROM A COMPANY IN BC WHICH FOCUSES A LOT OF ATTENTION ON QUALITY AND HOW THEIRS COMPARES TO CHEAPER COPIES. I HAVE TO SAY IT’S PRETTY GOOD, VERY GOOD ACTUALLY AND IT SEEMS TO BE WEARING WELL, BUT IT IS CERTAINLY NOT WORKING ITSELF IN LIKE AN AUTHENTIC CHAIR FROM HERMAN MILLER. THE GEOMETRY IS DEAD ON AND IT DOES FEEL AND LOOK LIKE A REAL ONE. MY ONLY REGRET SO FAR IS ALWAYS HAVING TO ADMIT THAT IT IS A FAKE. I GUESS THIS IS MY LONG WINDED WAY OF SAYING GOOD ON YA FOR GETTING IT FIXED. CHARLES AND RAY WOULD BE GLAD.

  50. Well, as it turns out, the fake has turned out to be a piece of shit after all. I’ve ordered a real one from Herman Miller and cannot wait for it to arrive…

  51. Hey all you bratz stfu i love the design except can’t afford it I really don’t
    give a shit if if it’s a repo. This is art, think of it as a poster you can sit on
    Thank you
    Judith

  52. Great Post! I personally own a few reproductions but with kids I would hate for the “real” thing to get destroyed! Maybe one day I will own a real Eames Lounger.

  53. I too inherited an original Eames lounger from my grandparents. Beautiful rosewood, black leather, so many memories. We LOVE the chair and don’t want it to be just a show piece. The frame, shell, and shocks seem to be intact – though I haven’t truly inspected the rubber shocks, I will have to take a peak as soon as I get home. The problem with my chair is the leather is crumbling on the seat, missing at least one button, and it has even split at the bottom seam. I called Herman Miller who quoted me $5000 for repair. As this is incredibly expensive I simply have resigned myself to lay a blanket over the seat for now. I am still debating whether I should just sell the whole piece – which would break my heart – or save up for repair.

    • Oh man, that’s ridiculous! If it were me, I would take the cushions (which remove very easily) to a leather repair person and see what they recommend. If it can’t be repaired, it shouldn’t cost you nearly that much to have it reupholstered by a decent upholsterer (look for someone with experience with these chairs—you might have to send the cushions somewhere, depending on where you live)——personally, I would not send the cushions out to Herman Miller and pay that much!

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