Charles and Ray Eames often visited their friend Billy Wilder on his film sets. While working, the famed director would put together a makeshift lounge chair so that he could nap between takes. Something about his jerry-rigged seat struck a chord with the duo.
The couple already had significant experience working with plywood. Applying heat and pressure, Charles and Ray had molded it for use by the U.S. Navy during WWII. Following the war, they continued to experiment with the material. The resulting smooth curves of molded plywood on the Eames Lounge and Ottoman were unprecedented in furniture design at the time. The chair is upholstered in leather and has an aluminum base.
When it debuted on Arlene Francis’ Home show in 1956, she called it “quite a departure” from the designers' earlier creations. The lounge set came about during a period of very spare and minimal furniture, but Charles was insistent on building a chair with “the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman's mitt,” one that would provide respite from the “strains of modern living.” In a letter to Charles, Ray wrote that the chair looked “comfortable and un-designy.” Despite its humble origins, the Eames Lounge and Ottoman are in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The first completed set was gifted to Billy Wilder, and is produced by Herman Miller.