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

An overview by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts of the design movements between 1880 and 1940 that comprised Moder… [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

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Clubs & Associations

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Recent News: Eames Chairs

Source: Google News

Drawing a line on the lawn amid water conservation and drought
Los Angeles Times, April 18th

Herman Miller brings back classic Eames chair in recyclable fiberglass. JOIN THE CONVERSATION: @latimeshome | pinterest.com/latimeshome | facebook.com/latimeshome | facebook.com/latimesgarden · home@latimes.com. Copyright © 2014, Los ...Read more

Mid-century Icon: The Lunch Room Chair
Huffington Post, April 17th

Maybe you've suppressed grade school cafeteria memories, but there is one aspect of the lunch room that your grown-up self might covet: plastic shell chairs. You know, the ones you stacked up in giant towers or placed on top of the table at the end of...Read more

Herman Miller brings back classic Eames chair in recyclable fiberglass
Los Angeles Times, April 16th

The iconic Eames molded fiberglass shell chair returns to vintage form as Herman Miller unveils a sustainable version of the 1950 chair that is made from recyclable fiberglass. Herman Miller discontinued the popular shell chair during the 1980s due to ...Read more

Bora Hong Pulls the Eames Chair Into Her Exploration of Body Modification in ...
Core77.com (blog), April 15th

While there are many designs out there that look to replicate the iconic style of the Eames Chair, I'd bet that there aren't many doing it quite like Bora Hong. Her work always has some sort of cultural connection, and her recent design series...Read more

Watch the Amazing Process of Manufacturing an Iconic Eames Shell Chair
Gizmodo, April 14th

When the Eames debuted their now-legendary shell chair in 1950, it became the first mass-produced plastic chair in the world. This wasn't just an aesthetic icon—it was also a wonder of manufacturing and engineering. Now, Herman Miller is giving us a ...Read more

Center for Arts to Screen 'Eames: the Architect and the Painter'
Ketchum Keystone -- An e-newspaper for the greater Ketchum Idaho community, April 9th

“This film is an opportunity to see Charles and Ray Eames far beyond their iconic Eames Chair,” states Kristine Bretall, The Center's director of Performing Arts, in a recent news release from The Center. “While they obviously excelled as designers, it...Read more

Rove Concepts Eames Chair Announced as Flagship Behind Brand's High ...
PR Web (press release), March 31st

Eames Chair has an awesome look and feel to it,” Vincenza Cuzick reviews, “It fits comfortably and has real leather. I am in awe of the quality of this chair. The quality is simply amazing and it is priced very reasonably for what you get. I couldn't...Read more

Film Screening for Eames: The Architect and the Painter
Twin Falls Times-News, March 28th

“This film is an opportunity to see Charles and Ray Eames far beyond their iconic Eames Chair,” said Kristine Bretall, the Center's director of performing arts. “While they obviously excelled as designers, it was their approach to design—and the...Read more