With the Eames chair, it was always a high-end statement piece. It never had any illusions about being a mass-produced, affordable everyday object when Herman Miller commissioned Charles and Ray Eames to make this iconic chair.
Nothing has changed about the design of the Eames chair since its 1956 release live on TV, and it's still just as cool and contempory looking as it was back then.
If you buy an official Eames chair, manufactured by Herman Miller or Vitra will cost up to $9000 depending on which options you go for. It's true that original Eames chair will hold its price well, but that's still a very high price tag which, for most of us, puts the chair beyond our reach.
Replicas, on the other hand, are so much cheaper and they look exactly like the original Eames - to the point that, in some cases, they're virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
I've made my choices for the best Eames chair replica, based on the following critera.
My top three choices are listed here below and I have a promotional code for Urban Furnishing:
|Highest Quality||Mid-Century Plywood Chair by Urban Furnishing||Urban Furnishing|
|Mid Range Option||Mid Century Lounge Chair and Ottoman by I Inch||Amazon|
|Budget Option||Leather Recliner with Ottoman by ToMe||Amazon|
Let me start by saying, replicas are not all the same chair under a different brand name. In fact, there are major differences in the way some are made compared with others and that in turn will have an impact on the comfort and look of the the chair.
I'll give you an example: While some replicas follow the original design specifications right down to having detachable cushions - others cut corners and just have cushions that are glued or stapled on.
It's a huge plus point to have the ability to remove the cushions for cleaning, replacement, repair, or re-upholstering at some point in the future. It's also a very good indicator that it's a high-quality replica, and it will extend the lifespan of your chair.
There are differences in the grades of leather too. Some use very high-quality leather such as aniline or top grain aniline leather, some are made from Italian leather, some just say real leather, and some are leatherette.
You'd think that the leatherette ones would be much cheaper, but they can be actually more expensive in some cases. Of course, not everyone wants real leather, and leatherette doesn't always mean that it's a low-quality replica chair - although some are.
If you know your Eames, you'll know what features a good replica should have. I'll bullet point them for quick reference below. But I'll also address some commonly asked questions and concerns about the various design aspects of the Eames chair in more detail.
People often expect the chair to recline - it doesn't, but with the Eames, there's a reason behind every decision that's been taken in the design process:
You see, this chair is the exact polar opposite of a waiting-room chair. It was never designed for sitting on the edge of your seat while you nervously wait for an interview. With a fixed angle of 15 degrees, the Eames chair practically invites you to lean back into it and completely relax. Rubber shock mounts allow a little flexibility of movement, but the chair is basically fixed at the 15° angle.
Why 15 degrees? This angle was built into the design - specifically to take the weight off your lower back!
There's a fair amount of debate about the Eames chair's size. People worry that the chair won't be big enough for anyone around 6 feet tall or over.
In case you didn't know, the official Eames comes in two sizes: classic and tall. and best of all, some replicas also give you this option too!
Now one thing I do want to point out is that some people mistakenly think that the upper shell was designed to contour the back of the head. This isn’t the case. Instead, the top shell, contours the shoulders and the back of the neck.
Urban Furnishing have provided the graphic below specifically to help their customers decide which chair would be right for them.
My advice is, if you think the taller version would suit you better, make sure you only consider replicas (like our top choice) that offer the tall version as well as the classic.
And remember, the Eames chair does come with an ottoman for you to rest your feet on. The chair is designed for you to lean back and relax with your neck supported and your feet up. You can place the ottoman wherever is most comfortable for your feet, given your height.
Both the original and replicas are made from molded plywood - which is most definitely real wood. If you layer and cross-grain sheets (or veneers) of wood, apply glue and add heat and pressure - you basically get organically-shaped, super-strong wood or as I like to call it, super-wood!
Molded plywood was the signature of Charles and Ray's work and it is synonymous with mid-century modern design.
If you love MCM and want to recreate the look. The easiest way to achieve it is to pair and contrast the organic curves of molded plywood with furniture, (for example a sofa) that has clean straight lines.
Originally the Eames chair was manufactured using 5 layers of plywood, but from the very early 1970s onwards, they have been manufactured using seven layers. Some replicas boast of new 8-layers - but that more of an indicator that they are using thinner/lower quality veneers to start with!
And the last point I want to make is that the shells should be made from FAS certified hardwood, sourced from USA, Canadian and Brazilian companies - kiln-dried to prevent warping and cracking.
Urban Furnishing have been manufacturing Eames replicas for more than 10 years now - and their experience and expertise shows. It’s by far the best replica out there.
It's virtually identical to the real thing in every way. What's more, it actually comes with real options. With Urban Furnishing you don't get the usual one-color, one-veneer, one-size that you get with nearly all other replicas out there.
For a start you can choose between both official sizes; classic and tall. And as you can see below, there are also a number of different color options, in addition to the ever-popular Black and Ivory/White option. So if you want to add a splash of color to your room you can.
This chair has all the details you'd expect in a good replica, including the swivel, 15 degrees tilt, black, die-cast five-point aluminum base, and rubber shock mounts to the backrest and underneath the armrests.
One of the things we particularly love about this chair is that it's made from full-grain semi-aniline leather.
Aniline, if you haven’t come across the term before, is a water-soluble dye that conditions and penetrates the hide, allowing all the natural grain of the leather to show through. Only the top 5% of the world's leather is suitable for this process.
Now, this in itself would make the leather super soft and beautiful, but being unprotected, it wouldn’t be the most practical choice for young families.
However, the Urban Furnishing replica chair has a fine coating of non-water-soluble pigment applied to its surface. This coating is protective but doesn't hide the natural grain. Voilà, here we have the perfect marriage of softness and practicality.
So this one is perfect for families with young children and pets.
The meticulous attention to detail is also evident in the FAS-certified veneer shells. Unlike other replicas out there, the veneers are finished both inside and out.
That’s because all the cushions are removable. Just like the original Eames, there’s a clip system that allows you to unhook them and clip them back into place - making it easy for you to for replace, clean, or, reupholster them in the future if you ever need to.
This detail puts the chair streets ahead of others in terms of quality, as so many cheaper replicas have glued or stapled on cushions.
In terms of comfort and how it compares with the original, the Uban Furnishing Replica is every bit as comfortable as the original.
It was always a comfortable chair but Urban Furnishing have recently further improved the comfort of their chair - not by erroneously trying to improve on the original - but by replicating the original even more closely.
Instead of PU-injected foam, they now use premium open-cell foam, just like the original, making it much more comfortable.
And lastly, if you take a look at the excellent customer reviews on their site - they have genuine reviews from real people.
The Furgle Eames replica may appear to be a relatively new product on Amazon, and as of writing, there’s only one review - so this is not a chair we’d ordinarily recommend. However, in this instance, this replica is actually by the same company that manufactures the very popular 1-Inch Eames replica.
I am recommending this one instead of the 1 Inch, simply because the Furgle comes with more options. If you like this one, we do recommend you all check out the 1- Inch version too. That way you’ll get the best deal for whatever option you choose.
The price range for this one is around the $700 mark so the chair’s cheaper than our top choice, but it’s still an exceptionally good replica.
All the essential details are present. One big difference between this one and our previous option is that this one doesn’t have removable cushions. They are permanently fixed to the frame. The manufacturing process for this chair would be cheaper than the Urban Furnishing one, but it's worth noting here, that this saving has been passed on to the consumer and is reflected in the price.
The quality of the leather is very high. This one is natural Italian leather. It’s not aniline leather but the chair still retains its natural grain texture as you can see below - and the fine protective coating of non-soluble pigment makes the chair both durable and hard-wearing.
The ToMe replica is one the cheapest options available and it does have a lot going for it.
First, it’s still real leather, not PU, it’s also available in more than one color and choice of wood veneer.
It’s been available on Amazon since June 2020 and has some of the best customer ratings - with photos, of any Eames replicas out there.
As you’d probably guess, the cushions aren’t removable but that’s to be expected for the price. They are memory foam-filled so offer both comfort and resilience to wear.
What does come as a surprise though, is that the manufacturers have used 8 - layers of laminated wood instead of 7 - and they seem to be pretty proud of the fact.
It’s really an indicator that the veneers are thinner or of less quality than the original. But you could argue that they have addressed the fact and have compensated for any lack of strength by adding an extra layer.
Nevertheless, the overall effect is that this replica looks very close to the original - and for under $700 it's good value for money.