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

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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]

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

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How Director Brad Bird Brought Back Our Bright Future For "Tomorrowland"
Co.Create, May 22nd

When I go to New York and see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection, it's like a a rejuvenator of your soul, whether it's the Eames chair or anything designed by the Bauhaus guys like Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. It was really fun...Read more

5 Insane Things From Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, Spring 2015
Jezebel, May 21st

If the wedding planning galaxy is a weirdo cosmic circus into which no woman is adequately prepared to be flung until it's far too late, Martha Stewart Weddings magazine is that galaxy's big fat Jupiter: Dazzling and marbled with soft, undulating...Read more

Essential Eames: Icons of 20th-century design
Myanmar Times, May 16th

One installation dismantles the iconic Eames Chair and Ottoman to demonstrate the creative process, and how mass production does not have to forsake good design and comfort. In a large hall, the curators assemble original pieces of Eames' furniture, ...Read more

Column: Retired colleague finds joy in downsizing
Fredericksburg.com, May 16th

This column begins with the sad observation that both of my parents have passed away—my mother only a year ago. We thank them for their many gifts to us, the largest of which may have come at the end of their lives. As children of the Depression, they ...Read more

Artist deRoy Gruber's eclectic collection up for auction
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 12th

Sam Berkovitz, owner of Concept Art Gallery, said a person's personal art collection reflects their sense of aesthetic. “She was very forward thinking, very modernist in her thinking. The furniture is all very modern,” he said, citing the Eames chair...Read more

Opinionator | I Was Raised by Psychotherapists
New York Times (blog), May 2nd

Often, the black leather Eames chair where I sit — she sits in an identical one, which must mean something — is still warm. Sometimes I wonder what sort of twisted reversal I am enacting. Freud wrote about transference that the patient “is not...Read more

How Charles and Ray Eames' “Shell Chair” is Constructed in 12 GIFS
ArchDaily, April 3rd

“The role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests – those who enter the building and use the objects in it.” Charles Eames. Herman Miller is...Read more

The Eames' Iconic Molded Plastic Chair, Sawed in Half and Turned Into a Loveseat
Curbed National, March 12th

Improving upon an Eames chair is nearly impossible, but last year the North Carolina firm of Clark Nexsen ingeniously turned the DSR side chair into a two-person love seat for a design competition co-sponsored by Herman Miller, manufacturer of Eames ...Read more