Iconic Eames chair gets a component makeover

The iconic Eames molded plastic chair, introduced in 1950, is getting a component makeover, now being made using 100% post-industrial recycled plastic. Producer Herman Miller says that’s the equivalent of approximately 122 tons of plastic per year and a 15% carbon reduction annually for seating line.

It’s not the first time the chair’s construction has changed. Ray and Charles Eames’ originally designed the chair in fiberglass and later in bent wire. In 2006, Zeeland, Michigan-based Herman Miller introduced a polypropylene version because of concerns about the environmental hazards of working with fiberglass, but “evolving material technology” allowed it to return to a fiberglass option in 2013, according to a news release. Today, the line available in all those materials, as well as wood.


“Ray and Charles Eames embraced a spirit of continuous reinvention for the molded plastic chair, especially in developing the use of sustainable materials with each iteration,” says Ben Watson, president of Herman Miller. “Herman Miller is honoring that design legacy with the introduction of an Eames molded plastic chair made from 100% recycled plastic, and we will continue to challenge ourselves to pursue meaningful, responsible change.” ​ 

The chair, introduced in 1950, was originally made of fiberglass.

The brand is also refreshing the chair’s color palette with three previously offered colors (black, white and red orange) and nine new hues (Evergreen, Cocoa, Deep Yellow, Brick Red, Pale Blue, Medium Gray, Blue Green, Gray Green and Light Gray.)

“The colors were specifically chosen to present designers and consumers with an updated palette that spans the basic color families with a current, cohesive sensibility,” the company says. “The modernized array of shades will bolster the Shell chair’s distinctive ability to flawlessly incorporate itself into a space, regardless of whether the space is refined, relaxed or somewhere in between. 

Herman Miller has made other product changes with an eye toward sustainability, including introducing the use of ocean-bound plastic in its Aeron chair. “As part of MillerKnoll, Herman Miller’s product changes are contributing to the greater collective’s 2030 sustainability goals, a companywide strategy dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint, designing out waste, and sourcing better materials throughout the collective of brands,” according to the news release.

The new Eames molded plastic chairs are available for contract clients at specific business pricing via authorized MillerKnoll dealers. They are also available online and at Miller’s retail locations with a starting price of $295.

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