When Ray and Charles Eames’ classic molded side chair was first produced, in 1951, it was one of the first industrially-manufactured plastic chairs on the market. The wonder of technology went on to become a much-loved classic—today, it’s enjoying a renewed popularity thanks to the popularity of Mid-Century modernism.
The side chair may be a classic, but it’s also been customized in a hundred different ways. Even the Eameses themselves tried out dozens of variations, adding different bases, “bikini” covers, and horsehair cushions. And since then, many other artists and designers have tried their hands at making a mark on the side chair—from a knit version to a Federal seal version.
Here are some of the most notable variations:
This is original look, made from fiberglass and marked by a simple four-leg base.
The Side Chair also comes with a couple of different appendages. The one on the left has the Eiffel base, followed by the stacking side base, and then the wooden dowel-leg version.
The Eameses liked to tool with different types of materials for the same side chair design. In 1951, they introduced the light, but strong, wire mesh version.
Revealed in 1952, the Bikini Chair was another Herman Miller-ordained exercise in mixing materials and patterns.
This original set of pink bikini chairs with Eiffel bottoms is also great. Did you ever lust after a thing you sit your butt on so much?
By adding yarn using basic weaving techniques, artist Akira Ishikawa has created her own, softened version of the wire side chair.
With a rocker base and a padded seat, this 1954 design was often given to Herman Miller employees when they became new parents.
Ray and Charles were never shy about remixing their own ideas, either. Here's another official variation, featuring a bikini cover and rocker base.
In 1961, the side chair got a desk to go with a stackable base, for stylish, affordable school seating, sold through Herman Miller.
Some side chairs come with padded seats, like this official option from the 1970s.
BAPE (as in the same BAPE that makes crazy freaking sneakers) made this limited edition camo side chair back in 2009.
This shiny take on the side chair was rehabbed by an unaffiliated designer—looks like it could hang from the ceiling like a disco ball.
New York illustrator Mike Perry custom creates these intricate, hand-drawn side chairs for Outdoorz Gallery.
Last year, the Textile Museum of Canada asked architects, designers, and artists to redesign 40 different side chairs. These are a few of their interpretations.
This is a nice, DIY refurb job on the iconic chair.
You can find quite a few Eames knockoffs on Etsy, too, like this one.
Artist Tania Aguiniga remixed this found chair by adding some black felt.
Herman Miller produced these federal eagle-printed side chairs with Eiffel bottoms in the early 50s. The pair is definitely something for a collector!
Some custom Eames pieces, like this set that has the Beatles' faces on it, have you wondering why some people want to mess with a good thing.
But in spite of all the interpretations of the side chair, Herman Miller is still producing the pure, classic version. And it's also producing its own variations. This year, for the first time, the Side Chair is available in molded wood.