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While Charles and Ray Eames were not the first to design furniture using plastic, their work with the synthetic material has become some of the most celebrated. In 1948, just after World War II, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum Design Project, Inc., launched the Competition for Low-Cost Furniture. Intended to solve a lack of available low-priced furniture and improve post-war living standards, the contest drew 3,000 entries from around the world. It was here that the Eameses debuted their voluminous plastic design for La Chaise, its name and form both a nod to modernist sculptor Gaston Lachaise.

Plastic was experiencing a coming of age—a synthetic novelty that, it seemed, could be used to make just about anything. Stamped steel and aluminum, the materials that the Eameses initially planned to use for La Chaise, had proved more difficult and expensive to produce than they had anticipated. In the end, the design duo did not walk away with a prize for La Chaise, but the chair garnered a great deal of attention and became almost immediately iconic. Yet La Chaise was not produced in the Eameses’ lifetime: Even using plastic, it still cost too much to manufacture. Nearly 50 years later, in 1996, Vitra put the chair into production. Though designed to be low-cost, La Chaise has become an object of high value, a design classic and a much sought-after addition to many homes.

Products Eames La Chaise courtesy of Paustian

issue 23 front cover

This story is from Kinfolk Issue Twenty-Three

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