Ray and Charles Eames started their experiments in molded plywood back in the 1940s, but the couple’s famous molded arm and side chairs never were made in anything other than fiberglass or polypropylene because the curves of the seat couldn’t be manufactured in wood.
Now, 62 years after its initial release, the Eames Molded Side Chair has conquered that technological divide: The piece has just been reissued in walnut, white ash or santos polisander (a species of sustainably harvested Bolivian rosewood), thanks to a newly developed process for creating pliable wood veneers.
Traditional veneer can bend but can’t turn corners without splintering, said Mike O’Brien, who leads the new product development team for manufacturer Herman Miller. The new Eames chairs achieve their look with a process developed by the German company Reholz, which cuts the veneer into toothpick-thick strips that can be bent, twisted, layered and pressed in a way that looks seamless. “You cannot see the slits,” O’Brien said.
Herman Miller developed the new molded wood side chairs with the Eames Foundation, taking advantage of the new technology while honoring the design intent of Ray and Charles, O'Brien said. The three seats are available in a choice of classic Eames bases: metal rod legs, the metal “Eiffel Tower” base or wooden dowel legs, sold through the Herman Miller online store. Prices start at $629. Design Within Reach sells all three woods on the Eiffel Tower base, starting at $649.