The very famous Eames Eiffel side chair was originally designed by Charles and Ray Eames in fiberglass. Later on, Vitra was licensed to remake the famous chair with a new and cheaper seat shell made of polypropylene plastic.
With all the Eames plastic chair reproductions on the market we do not know where to turn. How can we distinguish the different quality replicas on the market? Here are 10 questions that will help you sort the good from the bad ones.
There are 3 parts of the chair you should look at; the seat, the base and the hardware.
1 - Is the chair painted or dyed-through?
When the color of the seat is blended right into the molded material we refer to it as “dyed-through”. The benefit of a dyed-through chair is that the color will not change if the surface is scratched, leaving any damage less noticeable. For most of the cheap knockoff, colors are simply painted on, so scratches will reveal whatever color is underneath the paint, and therefore be more noticeable.
2 - What type of plastic the chair is made of?
ABS seats are more rigid, less flexible, sound hollow if you knock your nails on the seat, and the finish looks more like plastic (more shinny but not glossy) than a Polypropylene Plastic “PP” seat. Both seats are very solid and durable. Your selection will be solely base on your preference for the material and finish. For your reference, the original Eames chairs from Vitra is made of PP plastic. While the ABS seat was intended to imitate the original fiberglass seat.
3 - How well is the seat’s finish?
The best replicas, just like the original seat, has 4 circle marks on top of the seat that is almost invisible. It can be seen from limited angles only. Whereas cheaper replicas, the circles are very visible from all angles. See picture bellow of a low quality knockoff Eames side chair. Furthermore, a not so good finish often, but not always, means that the seat is very thin. The thinner the chair, the less support it offers. Think of how unsupportive a too soft, mushy mattress can be.
4 - What type of screw chambers does it have?
The chamber design of your Eames replica chair is very important since this affects the durability and comfort of your chair. The seat marked by the letter “A” is a mirror design of the original Vitra chair while the other seat with the letter “B” is not. Clearly, the “B” chair is undersized in design, has a lack of steel reinforcement and is grossly finished. There are multiple variations of the “B” chamber out on the market but they all have a similar weak design point, which we will talk a little more below. Charles Eames has designed something pretty and durable. Why mess with perfection?
5 - Are the top metal connectors creased?
To give a stronger and more durable support, the original metal connecters are creased. Kanvass Eames chair connectors are creased too (Picture A), while the low-end replica chairs are not (Picture B). A base with the creased connectors can support heavier weight and last longer. Cheap chairs can support about 100 lbs while the best chairs out there can support over 300 lbs.
6 - What kind of wood is the base made off?
Most Eames dowel base replicas are built with beech wood because of its high quality vs. low cost ratio. Additionally, beech wood can be stained if you prefer a darker finish. An upgrade to Ash, Maple timber, Oak or Walnut woods are also available on our Eames DSW model for an extra fee.
Buyer beware: some sellers may use the words “stained” and/or “finish” to describe the wood used for their furniture. Note that this usually means that the item is built of a lower quality wood and then stained or finished to resemble a higher quality one (i.e., a Walnut finish does not necessarily mean the chair is made of Walnut wood). This is not a bad thing in itself, as long as you are aware of what you are purchasing.
7 - Are there any glider protectors at the bottom of the legs?
To minimize any scratches due to your chair legs, all Vitra chairs have 4 white gliders. As for the knockoff Eames chair version, most of them have the white or black polypropylene plastic gliders. The worst reproduction has nothing so watch out for your beautiful wood floor! Our better base design has an extra felt protector on top of the PP glider (Image A). Only a handful of suppliers has this option.
8 - How springy is the chair?
For sure this testing can only be done in store only. Simply sit on the chair, if the legs spread out too much then you should be concerned about solidity and durability of the chair. Try many retailers near you and you can definitely see the difference. Having a little bounce is normal.
9 - What type of hardware comes with the chair?
All Kanvass hardware comes with 4 elements, starting from the top of the picture below:
For Kanvass, any set of hardware equal to “A-1” is more than sufficient. A set “A” is the closest you can get to the original chair, which is also the best. Everything less then the “A-1” set such as the “B” is questionable. Please keep in mind, most of the time, poor hardware means also poor overall quality chair.
10 - How do all the parts come together?
With good hardware and a well-designed chair, the base and the seat come together almost perfectly aligned (Picture A). As the for the cheaper Eames reproduction, nothing is perfectly aligned. Some of the screws cannot be tied up to their full extension, which impacts the top metal connector, which will be then crooked (see picture B). All these poor design will give extra pressure on the chair and lower it’s life expectancy.
As you can see, there are many quality of the Eames molded side chair replica on the market. So if you are only looking for a decorating chair to put in a corner, the cheapest chair on the market could do the trick. But if you want something more durable, these 10 questions can help you sort it out. The best Eames dining chair replica is what you are willing to pay for the use you want to do with it.
If you have further questions or have any comments, please add them below. We will try to answer them to the best of our knowledge.
According to Mr Winter, the Eames DSR made of PP plastic from Kanvass home (chair from the right in the video) is a better deal than the original Vitra molded DSR chair.
TV show: Ça vaut le coût at Télé-Québec / Featured guest: Koen De Winter, designer & professor of industrial design at UQAM. Start watching at 1 minute 42 seconds.