At first glance, Eames chairs seem like nothing more than a series of numbers and useless content. But they’re a really useful tool for narrowing down the age of the piece. They were generally used on seashells and deckchairs, but can also be found on pieces of plywood. Matching veneer — The wood grain on each dish’s veneer is the same as they were cut from a single log.
Each shell of the chair is factory-numbered to ensure that all the shells stay together when building the chair. On vintage chairs, the number is stamped on the inside of the bowl. After 1971, the chair is numbered with a black permanent marker. I’ve just picked up a Herman Miller Rosewood Eames Lounge from a vintage store that I believe is 100 percent authentic.
It has the Herman Miller tags, correct dimensions, ottoman, etc. After removing the cushions to cushion them, I noticed an engraved 3-digit number on the inside of the top two parts (backrest). Labels can also help with dating your chair. The round disc is the earliest label design and was used from 1956 to the 1970s.
The Eames chair’s black horizontal label was used from the 1970s to the 1990s, while the most recent label is the silver horizontal label. What I do know is that the first 10 chairs were made at the Eames office in California and were not mass-produced by Herman Miller. Here (Europe) at Vitra (which makes the lounge chair), you can buy a version of the lounge chair, which is a 10% larger version of the original chair. I paid less for a set of six vintage Knoll tulip chairs than DWR paid for a single new one; admittedly they do need some maintenance but I’ll still be way ahead.
This is where the problem of “quality” sometimes comes into play, because even the Herman Miller chair is susceptible to problems. It turned out that the trunk gliders were easily lost and did not adjust like the gliders on the deckchair base. So we saved up and let the chair sit in sad pieces for a while before finally biting the bullet and having the repair done by Olek Lejbzon, a furniture restoration company in New Jersey that specializes in this repair. This is not a definitive guide for authenticating a Vitra model of the Eames lounge chair.
Modernica bought equipment from Herman Miller when they stopped making the shell chairs out of fiberglass. So it can be really hard to tell the difference between new reproductions and Eames’ vintage originals. I HAVE TO SAY IT’S PRETTY GOOD, ACTUALLY VERY GOOD AND IT SEEMS TO WEAR WELL, BUT IT CERTAINLY DOESN’T WORK LIKE AN AUTHENTIC HERMAN MILLER CHAIR. As Eames famously put it: “The details make up the design; when it comes to determining authenticity, everything is in the details.
The problem with my chair is that the leather on the seat is crumbling, at least one button is missing and it is even split at the bottom seam.