Ray and Charles Eames, Shaping the Future of Design


Ray and Charles Eames met during their time at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and married in 1941. As their partnership blossomed, they experimented with the creation of multifunctional modern furniture designs, including molded plywood chairs that were intended to be functional and affordable options in home furnishings. Eventually, the product line expanded to include modern tables, chairs, and storage units, and their innovative approach to materials continued throughout the decades, from shaped fiberglass for inexpensive shell chairs, to collapsible sofas, aluminum frames, and more.

 

Ray and Charles Eames
Ray and Charles Eames

The Substance that Sparked Success:

The Mid-Century modern designs of the Eameses were lovingly adopted for both commercial and domestic use, and many are still being produced today. The following items are the products most attributed to the stunning popularity and accomplishment of the Eames couple.

 

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in Black Leather

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

The most iconic design to appear within the era, and model that continues to have influence today, the Eames lounge chair effectively changed the face of household furniture. The revolutionary use of molded plywood allowed super-heated wood to be shaped into impossibly smooth and perfect curves that had never been achieved before. The curved backing and undulating seat created a bold and paradoxical result, balancing between modernity and natural inspiration. This same use of molded plywood was utilized to create the Eames molded plywood dining chairs, which continue to be an example of enduring charm, and aesthetic integrity today. The lounge chair, however, utilizes genuine leather for that extra luxurious look, and comes with an accompanying ottoman alongside.

 

Eames Eiffel Chairs and Arm Chairs

The Eames Eiffel Chair and Arm Chair

Born of further experiments with materials, the Eames Fiberglass armchair appeared within the furniture market during the 1950s. Originally designed for the “International Competition of Low-Cost Furniture”, the chair was developed into numerous colors, utilizing various bases. Perhaps one of the most exciting and popular bases was the “Eiffel Tower”, a sculptural and engineering achievement for the ages.

 

Eames Rocker in White

The Eames Rocker

The Eames rocker utilizes the same molded plastic seat design as the Eiffel arm chair. The Eames molded plastic chairs allowed them to play with colors and design, but the differences did not end with shells or pigments, instead, the Eames continued to produce three different base types, each with a different purpose, look, and personality. The rocker base supplied an interesting combination of modern style and traditional comfort.

 

Eames Wire Chair with White Seat

The Wire Chair

Following the success of their Mid-Century modern molded plywood endeavors, the Eameses continued pursuing new materials for the creation of modern, functional furniture. The metal wire chair was designed to be durable, lightweight and ergonomic, comprised of a curved bucket-back seat secured to a metal support. The exciting use of metal resulted in a flexible design ideal for use indoors and out.

 

Eames Plywood Cocktail Table

The Plywood Cocktail Table

The same breakthrough technology that gave birth to the famous molded plywood chairs created the imaginative and simple Eames plywood cocktail table. The surface sports a slightly indented round top with a lean, and striking profile capable of bringing character to commercial and residential spaces alike.

The Impact of the Eameses

It is difficult to imagine the full scope of the design world without the impact of Ray and Charles Eames. Their groundbreaking contributions to furniture design, architecture, manufacturing, and industrial design have impacted our view of style, substance, and support. Ray and Charles Eames have done more than create a new look with their molded plywood chairs and fiberglass seating. Their ideas were designed to make the world around them a better place, where things were constructed to bring a greater pleasure and simplicity to the lives and practical needs of ordinary people. Even popular culture embraced their work, which makes cameos in everything from fashion campaigns (such as Prada’s 2012 resort wear) to television shows like Friends, House, and Mad Men.

For over four decades, the couple’s Mid-Century modernism designs have had a hand in molding almost every aspect of the American lifestyle, from furniture and architecture to textile and corporate design; they have established a profound influence on the visual spirit of American life, at home, or at work.