eames shell chairs

After writing about our mustard yellow fiberglass shells, the quest for dowel bases officially began. Our preference was maple and zinc, but we knew that might be tough to find.

Or maybe not.

Our shells post generated a lot of positive feedback for reproduction company Modern Conscience. Kyle contacted the company and was pleasantly surprised to learn that 1) they’re located in Seattle and 2) they had 6 maple and zinc wide-mount bases. Let’s call that fate.

So early last week we headed down to their studio, a rad work/live loft in South Seattle.

The owners, Amanda and Brian (both trained as architects), were super nice and helpful.  Amanda was even able to tell us that, based on the plastics factory stamp on the bottom of the shells, our chairs were likely reproduced in the early 60’s.

The legs are maple and have a tung oil finish that will likely darken a bit with time. They also have plastic protectors at the foot of each leg, which seem to work well with our cork floors.

Fortunately, the offset bracket at the top means that the bases can be used for our wide-mount configuration (the shells originally had a stacking base). [Not sure what the difference is? This handy graphic explains it well.] This was good news for us since we really didn’t want to mess with removing and remounting the shocks (which seem to be in pretty good condition).

Felix volunteered to QC the job.

To attach the bases, Kyle simply installed a screw through a washer and lock washer, paying careful attention not to drive the screw too far (which could cause the shock to pop off). The lock washer compresses between the bracket and the regular washer as you drive the screw in, creating a nice solid connection. The bases definitely “settled” the first time we sat in them, so we’re keeping a screwdriver handy to adjust them if needed after a week or so of use.

But in general – LOVE. The maple, zinc and yellow work well together and with the rest of our home.  The smaller size and more delicate proportions are a much better solution for the space. If anything, the table feels a bit too blond now, but we’ve got our own plans for that.  =)

Like some people mentioned, the seat height is a bit lower than a standard chair, but they still work fine. For the future dining room table, we’ll probably make it a smidge shorter. Although the chairs don’t necessarily look comfortable, they really are. The dining table is also our impromptu office, so I’ve spent a good many hours in them already.

Bailey didn’t seem to have an opinion…

…but Felix did. Our old upholstered chairs were a favorite napping spot for the kitten so he’s not too thrilled with the replacements. Good thing we don’t base design decisions around cats. [Although as a consolation prize of sorts, he did finally discover the loft ladder.]

Although it looks more saturated in the photo above (left), the color is more of a muted yellow in real life.

In addition to our chair acquisition we’ve also been tweaking our furniture layout. Although we were loving our flex room redo, we eventually grew tired of the Aerobed and decided to move our older couch back up from the basement. On a whim, we then decided to move the coffee table into the flex room…

…and you know what? It works so much better in there! This whole time we’ve known that something wasn’t quite right about the living area but chalked it up to its modest size. (We’ve even been toying with the idea of doing a future bump-out addition for that space.) But with the coffee table gone, the space feels more inviting and functional. In the flex room (aka TV room), we finally have a place to set drinks and store our half-dozen remote controls…which means I no longer have to hold my glass of wine through an entire episode of Dexter. A win-win for me and our wool carpet. 

The other radical thing we did was shorten and rotate the table 90 degrees. We originally designed the space so the table could work in a number of configurations depending on the event or our mood. When we first brought it back into the room last year it was right before my big 30th birthday party, so we must have decided to add the leaf back in, which meant orienting it parallel to the long direction of the house.  Over a year later, it finally dawned on us that we certainly didn’t need the larger configuration on a day-to-day basis and by shortening and rotating it, we could free up a bit more space for the living area.

[Also, we need an orchid whisperer. After one watering mishap, all of the flowers fell off but the plant itself still looks healthy. I’ve just continued to water it, hoping it will remedy itself, but I’m growing weary of that strategy. Orchid experts, advice?]

Anyway, scooting the couch a bit closer to the kitchen also gives us more room for chairs at the other end, which we’ve found is critical when we have people over. Although it was important for us to get six chairs, we’re keeping two in the living area for the time being.  The jumble of audio equipment behind is also on the to-do list for this fall/winter. Last year we came up with this design for a media cabinet. While we’re still envisioning a long, low-slung piece, we’re tweaking the design to work with the revised furniture layout (and our growing record collection!).

There are still several things on our to-do list for this space, but the chairs are a giant step in the right direction. And, they make us happy.


[P.S. – thank you for all of your thoughtful and encouraging comments last week! You guys are the best.]


24 Responses to “eames shell chairs”

  1. They look incredible! Congrats, Lauren and Kyle. How’d you decide on wide-mount? Its it pretty obvious, even though these were originally on stacking bases?

  2. Ju-Lie M. says:

    The orchid probably needs to be repotted. http://plantgasm.com/archives/4435

  3. I’ve always loved dowel bases. These look great.

    I found a pair of wire eames chairs and can’t decide on dowel or eiffel for the base. I keep leaning towards walnut with black dowel bases, but haven’t found a pair at the right price point (cheap that is) but always find eiffel super cheap. The dowel is sexy though…

  4. M says:

    We too have a similar couch with a chaise in that configuration and we’ve found a small round log as a mini table works great in the L shape, for holding a glass of wine, for example. Re the orchid, did all the flowers just fall off but the leaves still look fine? Was that the original flowering? If so, it’s natural that the flowers die and fall off. You cut the stem that they grew on back to about 1/4 inch above the first node so it ends up being cut to only an inch or two long. That stem is no longer needed without the flowers. It will grow a new one when it’s ready to flower again which may be only once a year. I like to let me orchids dry out a bit between waterings so don’t over water it!

  5. Gaidig says:

    Any orchid will lose it’s blooms after a while, though obviously good conditions have an impact on whether it will make new flowers. If I remember correctly, I don’t think you’ve had it long enough to need to worry about repotting. In order to get it to rebloom, I would recommend cutting the flower spike back to a node.


  6. Yuki says:

    I love the mustard color with the dark floors, and blue accent doors in your living room. Nice touch! The dowel bases have that nice tectonic feel to them, while also having the warmth of wood. I love following the project of your home!

  7. Andrei says:

    Awesome. We’re on the hunt for one of these in blue. Or six in blue. I had two posts in my google reader about these legs today. Thought you’d appreciate another set of dowel leg beauty shots. http://riazzoli.blogspot.com/2011/11/legs.html

  8. Sammi says:

    *envious sigh* heh heh! They look awesome! They really do add a lil’ pop to the space. Wish I could get my hands on some vintage Eames shells, but all I can find here in the land of Oz are ugly plastic’y reproductions… boo! (unless there’s any Aussie readers who know of a place that they can suggest?!).

  9. Ilana says:

    In my experience, orchids just like to screw with you. Bought an orchid, admired its lovely flowers until they fell off, carefully tended the plant for about a year and a half, got fed up that it hadn’t flowered again, shoved it into an unused bathroom…and the damn thing bloomed. My current theory is that they like less water. And that they’re bastards.

    • Kyle Z says:

      Exactly, orchids are like “look at me, I’m so pretty and flawless with my perfect petals glistening in the sun”, and then one day the say eff it, I’m out and turn into a lifeless disappointment. Orchids you’re on notice.

  10. emily says:

    Don’t worry about your orchid. I assume you have the phalaenopisis (butterfly) orchid? As Gaidig said, any orchid will lose its blooms. As long as the leaves look healthy and plump, with moderate water and sunlight (indirect sun), your orchid should be fine. Just keep the soil damp, and make sure there’s no water resting on growing tips of the plant (because that’ll cause the leaves and roots to rot).

    btw, <3 your blog!

  11. Dana says:

    Once orchids bloom, they fall off until the next year. The stems on my orchids had to be cut back because they started looking pretty bad. I kept the soil moist throughout the year and in indirect sun light and they bloomed again the next year. Every two years you should repot your orchid into a larger pot. Hope that helps!

  12. Samma says:

    The orchid in your picture is def a phalanopsis, and they actually grow naturally with very little soil, in the branches of the tree canopy. They have thick roots that pull moisture from the air — if your home is dry a daily mist with a bit of fertilizer will do them well. Since yours is mounted upside-down, you’re mimicking the natural conditions pretty well. A curious thing about phals is that they are triggered to bloom by a big swing from day temp to night temp (but they can’t take much below 60f for long. and, once you get new blooms, stop the fertilizer until the blooms drop again.)
    Indirect light, and don’t mistake the stems from the leaves, you’ll be all good. Lots recommend trimming the stems, but I have had good success with repeat blooms by letting the plant tell me when to trim the stem — if it drys out and looks like straw, trim. Otherwise, let it go.

  13. katie says:

    i have the same frustration with orchids, but maybe after reading some of the advice in these comments i’ll have to try again.

    love love love the bases! and thank you so much for the link to the company, i had no idea that you could buy bases for the wide-mount configuration! i had been leaning towards the eiffel bases for my gray chairs, but now that i know i can get the dowel for a similar price and already in the wide-mount configuration… this might be added to my christmas list. and yes, my family will make mock me for putting chair bases on a christmas list 🙂

    i really like the maple/zinc combo on your yellow chairs and in the space. did you see the walnut/black combo in person? i’m thinking that might work better with our gray chairs.

  14. pam says:

    Hi Lauren and Kyle,

    I love Chezerby and your new chairs.

    Wondering…as I am nursing a sofa along on its third decade…are the back cushions on your sofa loose or attached? If they’re loose, you might want to get in the habit of turning and rotating (like car tires) so they wear evenly and get squashed from both sides. FWIW…I’m sure you have a substantial investment there.

    • chezerbey says:

      Hi Pam, the cushions are loose but they’re sorta shaped to go in one direction. I totally hear what you’re saying though, thanks for the tip!

      • Kari says:

        Hey Lauren,

        My couch cushions did that, too. Are they feather, foam or just cotton batting? My old couch was cotton batting, so I just went to Joann’s and bought a couple bags of the stuff. The extra stuffing REALLY helped and we ended up selling the couch when we moved 🙂

        I used to live in Ballard, but I’m sure you know there is a Joann’s next to the Bartell’s next to the Library 🙂

  15. Heidi says:

    I remember how to water my orchids by remembering that they come from a tropical environment. I let them have a dry spell, then give them a big rainstorm (heavy watering) every week or two. Props if you can get them to bloom yearly. When I lived in Miami, many folks would have a little “orchid rack” where they’d keep their out-of-bloom orchids. Tons of orchids there and only a few actually blooming. Orchids don’t give up their cookies too easily.

  16. Heidi says:

    (Oh forgot to say that sudden petal/leaf loss (instead of gradual die-off) can be due to over-watering. And don’t touch the blooms – they don’t like the oil from our hands and it can cause them to blemish and spot.)

  17. Scott Ryan says:

    Love the butterscotch color. I had a set of 8 that I foolishly let go of before Eames chairs were back in vogue 🙁


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  1. […] scored six vintage Eames fiberglass shells and added reproduction dowel bases that we found right here in Seattle! Shell chairs had been on […]

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