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

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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

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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]

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Recent News: Eames Chairs

Source: Google News

In Perfect Harmony
Palm Springs Life, January 30th

The sight of the Eames chair in the 1980s was the road-to-Damascus moment for Gary, who became a fervent convert to modernism. “We got rid of the Italian, Miami Vice–type furniture that everybody had in the '80s and started collecting midcentury,” he says...Read more

Here's Another Thing About The Sharing Economy You Might Not Have Thought ...
Fast Company, January 22nd

Nicer furniture, for example, isn't deductible, which is something to think about before your splurge for a Tumblr-ready Eames chair in the lounge. But say you sign up for a concierge service like Huit.ly. You can leave a copy of your keys with Huit.ly...Read more

The Museum of the Future Is Here
The Atlantic, January 20th

If you want to talk about Van Gogh's Starry Night online, you have to link to the Wikipedia page. Wikipedia is the best permanent identifier of Starry Night-ness on the web. But if you want to talk about an Eames Chair, you can link to the Cooper...Read more

Today in Tabs: Tabs Is Still a Pirate Ship
Fast Company, January 14th

It's time to blow some stuff up!" said Wired EIC Scott Dadich two years ago. In 2010, Dadich was hailed as "The Savior of Condé Nast," but now that he's graduated from savior to God-King, it appears his plan was to blow stuff up so that he could...Read more

Teaching math and science through art, and a neural net (made of children)
Newsworks.org, January 8th

While not paying attention to long division, he remembered a short movie he had once seen called "Powers of 10," a 1977 short film made for IBM by Ray and Charles Eames – designers famous for the Eames chair. The film is a visual experiment in ...Read more

What To Expect From 3&D Printed Wood, Metal, and Stone
Co.Design, January 7th

now, at the very least, be able to mock-up more realistic looking models of the wood, stone, and metal projects they're working on. But still, don't expect Makerbot's announcement to get us any closer to a 3-D printed Eames chair, or a 3-D printed...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

Build Your Own Beautiful Flat-Pack Chair
Popular Mechanics, June 10th

Build Your Own Beautiful Flat-Pack Chair. With a borrowed CNC router, we cut all the pieces for this Eames chair from a single sheet of wood. Follow our plans and you'll have a flat-pack chair that comes together without any of those obnoxious IKEA...Read more