An Icon Evolved: Herman Miller Releases Eames Shell Chair In 100% Recycled Plastic

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The Eames Shell Chair is one of the longest-standing examples of good design. It pushed forward the idea of what a chair should be, what it should feel like and how it should be made all while keeping its functionality high and its price affordable. The Shell Chair’s presence is nearly ubiquitous in interior design, showing up in all strata of society from luxury hotels to American school cafeterias.

Given how the chair has so strongly driven forward the conversation around affordable and clever design, it seems fitting Herman Miller has taken another leap into its contribution to design history with the reissuing of the entire Eames Molded Plastic Chair Portfolio using 100% post-industrial recycled plastic. This move will reuse nearly 122 tons of plastic per year and also equals an annual carbon reduction for the line of 15%.

Evolution has been built into the DNA of the Shell Chair. The original designs by Ray and Charles Eames were made from fiberglass with the introduction of bent wire the following year. When fiberglass was found to be hazardous to the environment, the Shell Chair’s material was switched to polypropylene in 2006. The evolution continued to include wood finishes in the mid-2010s which came shortly after a return back to a safer fiberglass option in 2013.

The chair was the Eames’s entry into the Museum of Modern Art’s “International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design” with the goal to create a chair which could be mass produced with a one-piece seat and back. They succeeded in achieving this—the main reason why the chair pushed the boundaries of design—although the original 1948 entry was made with a stamped metal shell. The metal material soon proved to be too costly for mass-production and consumption—or, getting the most for the least—and the overall goal of the MOMA competition. This spawned the Eames’s idea to use fiberglass.

Now, along with the new, recycled versions of the chair, Herman Miller is releasing 9 new colors of the iconic design in shades of Evergreen, Cocoa, Deep Yellow, Brick Red, Pale Blue, Medium Grey, Blue Green, Grey Green and Light Grey.

“Ray and Charles Eames embraced a spirit of continuous reinvention for the Molded Plastic Chair, especially in developing the use of sustainable materials with each iteration,” said Ben Watson, President, Herman Miller. “Herman Miller is honoring that design legacy with the introduction of an Eames Molded Plastic Chair made from 100% recycled plastic, and we will continue to challenge ourselves to pursue meaningful, responsible change.”

The new Eames Molded Plastic Chairs start at $295 USD and can be purchased at Herman Miller’s online store and Herman Miller’s retail locations. Business clients may purchase the chairs with business specific prices via authorized Miller Knoll dealers.