Only 500 of These Purr-fect Eames Fiberglass Chairs Are Being Made
The cat is out of the bag: Vitra and Herman Miller are launching a limited-edition Eames Fiberglass Chair adorned with a hand-painted slumbering feline attributed to artist Saul Steinberg sleeping across its molded front seat. With only 500 pieces to be made, this might just become one of the most sought after Eames collectibles amongst those with a special place in their hearts for mid-century design history, cats, and an affection for cat naps.
The ubiquity of the Eames Shell Chair can be attributed to the fact it was the world’s first industrially mass-produced chair with the seat and backrest formed from a one-piece shell. The curved, organically-shaped shell seat cradles the back and supports the occupant’s backside; these attributes made the chair popular in classrooms, bus stations, restaurants, and just about anywhere affordable, durable, and easily maintained seating was needed. And ever since its debut in 1950, the chair has remained a stalwart for modernist design sensibilities globally, signaling a fine and friendly taste in design.
But you may be wondering, “What’s up with the cat?” The whiskered cartoon is attributed to Charles and Ray Eames’ close friend, artist, and architect Saul Steinberg. The story goes when Steinberg came to visit the Eames Office in Venice, California, he felt the inspiration (or perhaps compulsion) to paint a number of his imaginary characters across the furniture, floors, and walls of the studio, taking particular interest in the newly designed Shell Chairs.
Thankfully this special outburst of creativity was documented in a series of photographs, especially important noting only two Shell Armchairs embellished by Steinberg exist today: one being the cat on the armchair shell and the other with part of a female nude.
The chair with the cat is owned by the Eames Office and archived in the Eames Institute; the chair with the female nude is on permanent loan from the Eames Office to the Vitra Design Museum. The original chair at the Eames Institute was digitally scanned to create a 3D file, and with this data a faithful copy of Steinberg’s decorated fiberglass shell has been reproduced by Vitra, Herman Miller, and the Eames Office.
There will be only 500 of these limited-edition fiberglass armchairs, every one hand numbered, sealed with a protective lacquer, and given an authenticity certificate co-branded with Herman Miller and Vitra logos.
The limited-edition Eames Fiberglass Armchair with Steinberg Cat will be available to buy online at vitra.com, store.hermanmiller.com, and hermanmiller.co.jp on June 14, 2023.
This post contains affiliate links, so if you make a purchase from an affiliate link, we earn a commission. Thanks for supporting Design Milk!