Charles and Ray Eames, who pioneered modern chair design in the 1940s and '50s, were responsible for some of the most innovative chairs of the 20th century. Their chairs were fabricated from wood, fiberglass, plastic, and metal mesh. Eames chairs have been widely imitated, but originals are highly sought-after by collectors because they are considered breakthroughs in both design and technology.

In 1940, Charles Eames met Ray Kaiser at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, which was also home to architect and Eames collaborator Eero Saarinen and furniture designer Harry Bertoia. The couple married a year later and moved to Los Angeles to continue their work in molded plywood.

By 1945, the couple had figured out how to create compound curves in molded plywood. One of their first pieces was a birch child’s chair and stool manufactured by the Molded Plywood Division of Evans Products — production was limited to just 5,000 pieces.

Evans also produced about 1,000 LCW chairs (which stands for Lounge Chair Wood) before the Eameses began a long collaboration with the Herman Miller Furniture Company, which produced and distributed a number of chairs for them, including the DCM (Dining Chair Metal), in which two pieces of plywood are secured to a solid-rod chromed frame with rubber shock mounts. In 1951, Herman Miller was selling 2,000 of these chairs a month (examples with wooden legs were less popular, making them more collectible today).

Molded fiberglass chairs in a variety of bright colors — with or without arms, with or without a rocking base — came next. Serious Eames connoisseurs look for chairs from this period, 1950-1953, with a "Miller-Zenith" label on their undersides. The ones with wooden bases (DAW, PAW) are less common and thus more sought-after than the ones with metal legs (DAR, LAX, LAR, RAR). Around the same time, the couple designed chairs made from sturdy wire mesh, with covers available in leather, vinyl, and fabric by designer Alexander Girard.

These were the chairs that the Eameses produced for the mass consumer. By 1956, well-heeled customers could order a Lounge Chair and Ottoman, whose molded rosewood plywood form embraced rich leather upholstery. The chair is still available today from Herman Miller in cherry and walnut.

In 1958, the couple launched a chair collection called the Aluminum Group, which included a desk chair and a lounge chair — the armless models of the latter are most prized today. In 1960, Eames designed several chairs and a trio of stools for the new Time-Life Building in New York. One was an Executive Desk Chair, the other an Intermediate Desk Chair, which was a smaller version of the Executive that did not sell as well, making it the more prized of the two today.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

EamesCollector.com

EamesCollector.com

Steven Cabella's personal homage to Charles and Ray Eames. This site is as clean and visually appealing as the Eame… [read review or visit site]

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

This Library of Congress microsite is an overview of the postwar modern design work of Charles (1907-78) and Ray (1… [read review or visit site]

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

This website showcases several hundred pieces of furniture, held by thirteen museums, that were designed for Herman… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Buffalo Architecture and History

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]

The Mid Century Modernist

The Mid Century Modernist

Stephen Coles' really visual blog dedicated to the Modernist era of design from 1940 to 1970 (aka Mid-century Moder… [read review or visit site]

Chipstone

Chipstone

This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]

Classic Modern

Classic Modern

Get a taste of how homes were lit in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with the Danish retro-style lighting designs featured on… [read review or visit site]



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Recent News: Eames Chairs

Source: Google News

Designer creates Nike sneaker inspired by Eames Lounge armchair
Daily Mail, August 26th

Using curved plywood and black uppers, this sleek-looking Nike trainer looks a lot like it's unconventional inspiration: an Eames Lounge 670 armchair. Paying tribute to the Modernist furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames, who died in 1978 and 1988 ...Read more

What should a magazine company be now? The most storied one in America ...
New York Magazine, August 24th

In the 92 years since Henry Luce co-founded Time Inc., there have been just seven journalists to hold the title of editor-in-chief. More people have walked on the moon than have sat in Luce's custom Eames chair in his office on the 34th floor of the...Read more

This Concept Sneaker Is an Homage to an Eames Chair
Gizmodo India, August 22nd

This sleek-looking trainer isn't real (yet), but it ought be. Because while it looks like a piece of footwear from the future, it is in fact a homage to furniture from the past. The brainchild of French designer Ora-Ïto, the shoe pays tribute to...Read more

Boy's budget bedroom makeover focuses on fun
Los Angeles Times, August 20th

Or pair an inexpensive IKEA desk with a vintage Eames chair.” Lighting: "This room had no lighting. A kid needs lighting. We added wall sconces from Urban Outfitters for $29. I went with a big-scale light fixture in the center of the room from Kartell...Read more

Video Interlude
Curbed National, August 19th

To get a feel for what it was like to encounter the now widely beloved and collected Eames Lounge Chair for the very first time, pretend you're a viewer of NBC's Home show in 1956 and watch this video, recently featured on Gothamist, of an adorable...Read more

Watch Charles and Ray Eames Debut Their Most Famous Chair On TV In 1956
Gizmodo India, August 18th

Charles and Ray Eames were the archetypal design power couple, who each brought their own distinct kind of creative genius to the personal and professional partnership. When they visited NBC's daytime Home show in 1956 to debut their (now-iconic) ...Read more

This 1956 NBC Segment Dramatically Debuts Eames's Iconic Lounge Chair
Gothamist, August 18th

In 1941, Charles Eames was introduced to the world through an exhibit at MoMA, and by the 1950s he was a household name and his chairs a household fixture. In 1956, Eames (along with his wife Ray) went on NBC's Home show to introduce his latest ...Read more

A Modern Take on an Iconic Eames Design
Architectural Digest (blog), August 5th

The Eames fiberglass shell chair silhouette has become so ingrained in the collective consciousness of modern design that it's difficult to imagine a time before it existed. Created by Charles and Ray Eames and first released in the 1950s through...Read more