The chair that was impossible to make for 60 years
It's tough to explain why a chair is a big deal. The one you see above, in that shape, known as the Eames "Shell" Chair, has been on the market for over 60 years. It's in the Museum of Modern Art, it's in every bourgeoise coffee shop from Brooklyn to Bombay, you can buy knockoffs on Craigslist for $100 bucks. It's ubiquitous. It's iconic. So why then are we talking about one of the most talked about chairs of all time? Are we beating a dead mid century modern horse with a burled walnut stick? No, and here's why:
When Charles and Ray Eames rocked the furniture world with their space age "Shell" series, they did so at great compromise. Their furniture making process was honed over the course of a love affair for bent plywood, thin sheets of veneer molded into unique shapes using intense heat and pressure. They pushed the limit of these shapes and designs, often at personal injury, to get exactly what they wanted. But when what they wanted looked like the chair you see above, the laws of physics and the materials available forced them to settle on a brand new synthetic material: Fiberglass.
Fast forward 60 years and their initial designs for a molded wood veneer "Shell" chair had still never been realized. But on July 19th, that will no longer be the case. The Herman Miller company has devised a revolutionary 3-D veneer technology that carefully slices the veneer into spaghetti thin strips before seamlessly reassembling them into a highly moldable shape. This process significantly reduces the thickness necessary for the veneer to adhere to the mold, resulting in an incredibly durable, incredibly strong chair that answers the prayers of Charles and Ray Eames.