Vitra DSW displayed in a dining room
27 MARCH 2019

Vitra DSW: The story of an icon

Vitra’s polypropylene chair makes history



The Eames Plastic Chair DSW (Dining Height Side Chair Wood Base) was born in 1950, created from the designs of Charles & Ray Eames. The original model was created for the “International Competition for Low-cost Furniture Design” held by the MOMA in New York. The design had been created ad hoc to answer to the urgency of furniture needed in the post-war period. So, what makes this product, created more than 50 years ago with a clear objective, an icon that overcomes time?


Charles Eames was a personality ahead of his time. Decisively eclectic during his lifetime, he engaged in different activities: architect, designer and director. He was always interested in technology and it’s contact with everyday life. One of his natural attributes was to maintain deep relationships with the people from whom he was able to learn much of the information that would later be used in his work: consulted material specialists (fibre, aluminum, plywood and wood) and observed carefully other directors at work (for example Billy Wilder). Thanks to his many life experiences, his creative philosophy was very pragmatic: every design project of his was born out of any need.


The designs of the DSW chair began to develop in 1948. It is definitely the product that better represents Charles and Ray Eames’ philosophy, who aimed to give the most with the least in every product.


Their objective was to head towards mass production with an object that could be used by all in every ambiance. The first version made by the two designers was not in plastic, but in stamped metal, which afterwards became fiberglass. However, once the change of material happened, the idea of keeping the chair in a unique “shell” remains, which is a first in chair production history.


The chair was sudden success: it’s adaptability to any ambiance, how easy to clean it was it and it’s robustness made it the ideal product for any situation: from the luxury apartment to the country house, from refined ambiances to familiar and informal atmospheres, from kitchens to living rooms. The usage of fiberglass is a sign of innovation which marked a turning point in mass consumption. Both newspapers and consumers were immediately satisfied by the product.


Originally thought for a domestic usage, eventually the Vitra DSW chair turned into a trend in public places: bars, event halls, restaurants, hotels, it’s versatility makes it truly ideal for every space.

The continuous technological innovation and the constant search for the production of more economic materials made the designers change once more the material of the product. From 1988 the DSW chair  is made with polypropylene, which is the way we can find it nowadays in the stores.


When Charles and Ray Eames created this extraordinary object they didn’t think they’d be creating an icon. They just wanted to make something that would be considered “extremely useful” for them and for the others. This was the focus of their constant research, which result was a product that nowadays we can define as “invisible” for the most of the population, but for those passionate about design this is one of the brightest points of its history: an authentic icon.


There are many versions in which the DSW chair can be found: for starters it can be set either with diverse types of seatings or with different materials for the legs. The Eames Plastic Armchair model is composed by a seat with integrated armrests, while the Eames Plastic Side Chair model is slimmer and has no armrests.

Both of these chairs can be elaborated in different colors, with an even wider range of possibilities after the 2015 version was released, and can be integrated with a fabric cover or a cushion pad.


As for the base, you can select different shapes and multiple materials. The legs are available in wood and steel, or just steel. The legs can be 4 tubular legs or they can also be tied by a thin steel wire. Another version comes with an only support and 5 wheels, making this chair ideal for studios and desks.


Charles and Ray Eames in a room with three different models of the DSW chair
A picture from the 60’s portrays a woman reading on the beach while sitting on the shell of a DSW ch
From 1988 the Vitra DSW chair becomes a chair in polypropylene, proposed in differents colors
Red Vitra DSW chairs displayed in a showroom
Red Vitra DSW chairs displayed in a showroom

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