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]



Other Great Reference Sites

Recent News: Eames Chairs

Source: Google News

Cantilevered 1960s Modern in Silver Lake by Raul Garduno Asking $899K
Curbed LA, June 27th

Bring back the master bath to its architectural significance w/ sunken tub and new fixtures. Asian style sliding closet doors throughout. Original walnut cabinetry, cooktop, dbl-oven, and built-in bbq. Bring your Eames chair and Barcelona table and...Read more

The Finer Things at Auctions (Jun 26-Jul 2)
BLOUIN ARTINFO, June 26th

Marilyn Monroe's dress and Marlon Brandon's motorcycle are among the covetable items going under the hammer this week, as are a rare Charles Eames chair, Ai Weiwei's vases, and Irving Penn's visually arresting photographs. Both part of Julien's ...Read more

Object Lesson: Wild Corita Kent biblical print has Eames chairs, no 'shampoo ...
Los Angeles Times, June 24th

Corita was transforming this by putting an Eames chair in there. She's making it modern. Later, she would transform advertising — by taking this cynical mode of communication and turning into something that bore much more profound content. "It shows...Read more

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House Beautiful (blog), June 18th

Unlike the midcentury trends leading up to the decade, the 1970s tends to be cringeworthy rather than celebrated. Granted, super-shag rugs and polyester don't inspire the way a classic Eames chair does, but the decade did have its high points. For...Read more

Intricate Collages Recreate Mid&Century Modern Architecture
Co.Design, June 17th

British artist Lucy Williams makes vibrant paper cutouts of midcentury modern buildings and interiors that are so realistic you might do a double take before realizing they aren't photographs. There's Pierre Chareau's Maison de Verre, and the majestic, ...Read more

Art Doc of the Week: 'Eames: The Architect and the Painter'
Crave Online, June 16th

As the film details everything – the long incubation period of trial & error to create the iconic Eames chair (and subsequent furniture lines), the inner workings of the couple's legendary studio in Venice, California, the far-flung components of their...Read more

Eames Post-War Plywood Radios Were Part of the War Effort
woodworkingnetwork.com, June 3rd

Charles and Ray Eames are well known for groundbreaking contributions to architecture, industrial design and manufacturing, and of couse, furniture. "The Eames Chair" among their most famous creations. This history, drawn from the Eames Foundation ...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