The ICON | Eames Plywood LCW Chair

  • WORDS Stephen Crafti
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    We’re celebrating the launch of The ICON series. Kicking off with the Eames LCW Plywood Chair, The ICON series highlights the timeless and functional appeal of products designed to last, earning iconic status on a global scale. 

    Awarded the title of ‘Best Design’ for Time Magazine’s millennium issue in 1999, the LCW – Lounge Chair Wood – continues to go from strength-to-strength well into the 21st century. Designed by husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames, the LCW is still a favourite with architects and designers today. Used as a side chair in living rooms and bedrooms, its simple but curvaceous form moulds to one’s body as though tailor-made just for them.

    In partnership with Herman Miller Australia 

    Some of the most important designs occur by chance; an idea for one project that sheds light onto another. In the case of the LCW, the Charles and Ray were commissioned by the United States Army to conceive a more comfortable splint for wounded soldiers in the Second World War. The stretchers the wounded were carried on were also unforgiving with the steel splints not allowing much give in the canvas. So the Charles and Ray started experimenting with plywood, a material they were also thinking about for a new chair. They even had a contraption specifically designed for moulding in their spare bedroom at home called the ‘Kazam machine’, which made a noise that must have displeased neighbours in their apartment building.

    The US$5,000 Charles and Ray received for creating the plywood splints for the army assisted in developing the plywood chair series, including the LCW. Made from seven layers of plywood to create strength, the plywood was then heated to create a curvaceous form, with the backrest and seat created independently from the legs and frame. It also formed part of the moulded plywood series including the LCM – Lounge Chair Metal with its distinctive large shock-mounted rubber studs. Not surprisingly, given the popularity of these plywood chairs, Ray Eames was then given the prestigious position of creative director for Herman Miller, which took up the manufacturing rights, in 1947 and continues to the present day.

    “Guests tend to gravitate to this chair. It always surprises me how comfortable they say it is, even when people of all different shapes and sizes sit on it…”

    – Richard Peters, Principal of Tobias Partners

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    Eames® Moulded Plywood LCW Chair in Walnut featured inside the Polychrome House by Amber Road. Photography by Prue Ruscoe, styling by Alicia Sciberras.

    The LCW seems to be one of the most popular choices for architects and designers today, as it was in the post-war period even Down Under. The late Harry Seidler, for example, purchased the plywood chairs for the Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga, including the LCM as dining chairs for the glossy black glass dining table. Principal at Tobias Partners Richard Peters also has an LCW in his home in Randwick Sydney, which he shares with design writer Heidi Dokulil. The shed-style home includes a number of iconic pieces, such as Marc Newson’s Embryo Chair and a set of six vibrant green Selene dining chairs made from fibreglass. “I bought the LCW as a Christmas present for Heidi. It was something that I had on my wish list for many years,” Richard says, who admits this chair was really a present for both of them.

    Purchased from Living Edge, Richard was drawn to the LCW due to its form, colour and shape; a number of finishes and colours are available including cow skin in both brown and black. “Guests tend to gravitate to this chair. It always surprises me how comfortable they say it is, even when people of all different shapes and sizes sit on it,” Richard says. “It must be one of the most ergonomic chairs on the market, surprising given that its plywood and developed all those decades ago,” he adds.   

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    Eames® Moulded Plywood LCW Chair in Ebony featured in a Copenhagen Apartment designed by Norm Architects. Photography courtesy of Norm Architects.

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    Eames® Moulded Plywood LCW Chair in Walnut featured inside an Art Nouveau Apartment in Antwerp. Photography by Niko Caignie.

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    The home of Charles and Ray Eames, featuring the Eames® Moulded Plywood LCW Chair.

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