What’s in a Name and Who Really Cares?
These chairs are genuine design classics. They have been copied for as long as cheap, mass produced furniture retailers have existed. But there’s a world of difference between the cheap, plastic rubbish that furnish so many display homes and offices and the true fibreglass originals. But what are they actually called? Eames chairs? Modernica Chairs? Or simply, fibreglass chairs? Well, there is much background to their story. And truth be told, they’re so important to the designer furniture world that they can handle many monikers. So why worry about what they’re actually called? Let’s actually learn something worthwhile and look beneath the surface.
Modernica represents an American ideal. Office headquarters and manufacturing is based in an expansive five acre campus in Los Angeles, California. It has been family owned and operated since its inception almost thirty years ago. And each piece of furniture is made by skilled craftspeople using appropriate technology (more on this below) and with Modernica’s famous ‘one-by-one’ focus. Click for the official Modernica website here.
Yes, Modernica has an incredible timber furniture manufacturing ability, and its upholstery is genuinely first class, as too is its ceramics workshops. But there’s one area that is uniquely their own. An area where they are pioneers and where they truly stand alone. Fibreglass.
The company is responsible for essentially bringing back, almost ‘from the dead’, the art of high-pressure fibreglass moulding. Since the late nineties Modernica has been making one of the most enduring chair designs in it’s original fibreglass form. Each chair shell is made by hand, one by one, using the original presses and machinery from the 1950’s. Modernica chairs are 100% authentic.
The original chair design was conceived by the iconic American design team of Charles and Ray Eames. In fact they designed the first fibreglass shell chair back in 1948. This formed their original entry into The Museum of Modern Art’s International Design Competition. Hence one could never argue against the ubiquitous use of the term ‘Eames chairs”. Design development and prototyping originally took place in the late forties and early fifties in Southern California. In fact the very first shell chairs were available for sale in the spring of 1950. How fitting that manufacturing and production continues at its spiritual home, today.
For more on the prolific design team of Charles and Ray Eames, click here.
In fact all the fibreglass Modernica chairs are made utilising all the original presses and specialised equipment obtained from Zenith Plastics who pioneered the emerging fibreglass technology 65+ years ago. To further ensure complete authenticity of production, the initial shell chair production was overseen by senior members of the prototyping team that developed the original technology back in the fifties: Sol Fingerhut and Irv Green. How’s that for commitment to the cause!
In those pioneering years, fibreglass was considered an ultra high tech material. Its enduring quality remains today, as it remains both lightweight and heavy duty. This is a killer combination in anyone’s language. Furthermore, it is easy to clean and very robust. Perfectly suited to seating. And it is also beautiful to look at. It has so much more texture and interesting patterns inherent in the glass fibres themselves. Plain coloured, matte, dull, easily damaged plastic simply simply has no place in terms of a comparison to the aesthetic beauty of polished, coloured, textured fibreglass. They are in different leagues entirely.
Please follow this link to see a short video depicting the fibreglass moulding presses and processes. The Modernica Way.
Modernica Chairs Today
As stated on their website…..”Modernica creates each chair with the charge of adhering to the original tactile qualities, texture, and characteristics that alone are unique to the fiberglass shell chair.” And each of the thousands of Modernica chairs are still made utilising the historic equipment and traditional techniques.
However, times change as do consumer tastes. Hence Modernica chairs are now available in many, many more colours and patterns than could ever have been dreamed of way back when. There are also numerous base options too. And nowadays Modernica collaborates with many modern designers to create very contemporary patterns utilising the latest computer technology. All of this means that you can in fact mix and match to your heart’s content in order to create your own perfect look.
But What’s The Real Name?
OK, we get it. Some people just have to know what these chairs are really called. And if you’ve made it this far, you’re most definitely design nerds like us. Furthermore, given this fact you deserve to know the truth. But you will be surprised!
In fact these Modernica chairs are officially referred to as follows:
1. Armless chairs:
Case Study Furniture® Side Shell Eiffel/Dowel/H Base/Stackable/insert type of leg arrangement here.
Case Study Furniture® Arm Shell Eiffel/Dowel/H Base/Stackable/insert type of leg arrangement here.
Sexy hey? Now you might be a little more lenient (like us) re the using and abusing of the much simpler names people have come up with over the years. And yes, we know your next question…….”where does the term case study come from”? Well, we’ll leave you hanging on that one. We’re sure you’ll look into it and find out for yourself. The answer isn’t too hard to find.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with the Case Study® hunt. The truth is out there. We promise!