Charles and Ray Eames
The Eameses were a married pair of designers. Both American, they worked in multiple fields. They are best known for their contributions to furniture design, architecture, and especially the industrial design and manufacturing process. They also worked in graphic design, film, fine art, and textile design and production. Probably their single most well-known design is the Eames Lounge Chair, which we will examine below and which might look very nice sitting near the fireplace in your log home.
Charles and Ray
Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. was born in 1907. During a brief stint studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann. After a year of marriage, in 1930, they had a daughter (and Charles’ only child). That same year Charles founded an architectural practice in St. Louis, along with a partner, and eventually a third. Eventually his design ideas grew into other fields besides architecture; in 1938 he received a fellowship at the Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan, where in time he would become the head of the industrial design department.
Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser was born in 1912. She graduated from Bennett Women’s College in 1933, then studied abstract expressionism in New York City. At the urging of a friend, Ray began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940, where she would meet Charles Eames, in order to widen the breadth of her design skillset, branching off into furniture design, architecture, and film.
In 1941, Eames and his first wife were divorced. Later that year, he and Cranbrook colleague Ray were married. They promptly moved to Los Angeles, where they lived and worked for the remainder of their lives. They would be active in the fields of architecture, graphic design, textile design, and film, but by far their most important contributions would be combining the fields of furniture and industrial design through the use of molded wood and later molded plastic.
Molded plywood and plastic
As early as the 1830s people had been experimenting with glue-laminating wooden strips together and shaping them under heat and pressure. The first patent for production of molded wood was given out in 1874, and by the twentieth century, simple molded plywood furniture was in wide manufacture.
Though they originally preferred metal as a material, World War II shortages forced the Eames to begin developing their furniture using bent molded plywood, often using a wood veneer. From their Los Angeles workspace they created chairs, tables, bookcases, and more using these techniques. In 1946, their plywood furniture collection was developed for release by the company Herman Miller. Several Eames creations are on display at various modern art museums including the famous Eames Lounge Chair. In later years they would also begin to incorporate molded plastic into their designs.
Eames Lounge Chair
The Eames Lounge Chair and accompanying ottoman were released in 1956, designed by the Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company. While most of the Eames furniture output focused on mass produced, affordable products the Eames Lounge Chair was a high-end luxurious chair. According to Charles, they were going for “the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” The chair itself consists of three curved plywood shells, the headrest, the backrest, and the seat, each covered by a permanent cushion. The chair seat is permanently titled back at a slight recline. An original run 1956 Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. To this day over 100,000 have been produced, and the design is still widely available.