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

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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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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

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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]

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Recent News: Eames Chairs

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From Every Angle
5280 | The Denver Magazine, February 27th

A home commands breathtaking views of the Flatirons with a design that draws the outside in. By. Julie Dugdale. March 2015. XO. Previous Pause Next. 1 of 8. Night Light The fire pit, designed by Luke Sanzone at Marpa Design Studio, glows on the...Read more

How Common Ground Builds Small To House NYC's Homeless
Curbed NY, February 27th

The photos are clearly staged for the Hedgeman (the one with the real Eames chair ...and probably real Eames bench)...but I think the ones for the Lee...with the linoleum floor are probably actuals. Common Ground does some really fine work. More and...Read more

24 Small Spaces with Wonderful Maximalist Decorating
Curbed National, February 26th

These spaces may be miniature, but they are filled to their brims with elaborate decor. From a lacquer and velvet backdrop for an austere series of Josef Albers prints, to a loft carved into a gallery for wacky furniture prototypes, to an excess of...Read more

Jackson's modernist gems on tour of homes Friday
Jackson Clarion Ledger, February 25th

Hooks used to go to metro area flea markets and find mid-century modern pieces that were bargains. Not so much now. “People know what they're getting and know what they're looking for and they know what an Eames chair is. ... Either somebody else has ...Read more

Loris Lora looks for California modernism's connections
Los Angeles Times, February 25th

California figures, beginning with Eames and his wife, Ray, moving on to their friend Billy Wilder (portrayed here lounging in an Eames chair), and then across a variety of creative landscapes: jazz, architecture, the peculiar industry of the...Read more

The Finer Things at Auctions (Feb 13-20)
Artinfo UK, February 12th

This week, the finer things at auctions include drawings of old masters at Artcurial and contemporary art at Phillips for those looking to jazz up dreary walls. At Bonhams' Period Design sale, there is an opportunity to acquire an iconic set of the 670...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

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