The A-Z of Design - E for Eames

E for Eames

Film-set architect, Charles Eames (1907-1978) and his wife Ray (1912-1988) designed some of the most iconic, innovative and influential pieces of 20th century furniture. The legendary duo also designed buildings, films, exhibitions, children’s toys and puzzles.

In 1941 the newlyweds moved into a modest, rented apartment in Los Angeles and turned their spare bedroom into a workshop. Here they installed a home-made machine which they used to mould plywood and created a prototype, curved leg splint. The US Navy eventually ordered 5,000 of these, which enabled the Eames’ business to progress and relocate to a workshop. Their love of design and technical ingenuity came to life in their fibreglass, plastic, aluminium and leather creations. Eames’ furniture was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York throughout the 1950s. 

Charles and Ray in their workshop.  Photo:
The Eames Lounge Chair became an icon in subsequent decades giving offices worldwide a sleek look. Charles wanted this chair to combine pure comfort with quality materials and workmanship and convey the impression of a soft, well-used baseball glove which one could sink into...

The Eames' house, Pacific Palisades, California
Image © designboom
Above: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) moved all of the objects from the Eames' living room to an exhibit California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way from their 1949 Case Study house.

Above: The Vitra DSR chair by Charles and Ray Eames - based on the original 1950s design which was the first industrially manufactured plastic chair. Environmentally-aware Vitra discontinued production in 1993, as fibreglass cannot be recycled, but due to technological advances they now produce the same shape chair made with polypropylene instead.
Dedicated to their craft, Charles and Ray Eames worked hard daily from nine in the morning to ten at night and devoted their lives to design. They employed a full-time cook which left them them free to get on with their work. When Charles died in 1978, Ray continued with their unfinished projects and spent the remainder of her working life talking and writing about their work and ideas. Ray died exactly ten years to the day after Charles on 21 August 1988. The documentary “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” offers a closer glimpse into their life.
Ray and Charles Eames - Photo courtesy of the Design Museum
Mid-century Modern Design began in the 1930s, developed through the forties and was refined in the fifties - it is characterised by mass produced shapely, ergonomic furniture which blends in well with design from later periods. Other designers of the time include Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Eero Saarinen.
The Eames' house - close up

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