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

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Recent News: Eames Chairs

Source: Google News

From The Straits Times archives: Works by 2014's Designers of the Year
The Straits Times, November 25th

(From left) Tan Kok Hiang (Principal Director of Forum Architects Pte Ltd), Peter Tay (Design Director at Studio Peter Tay) and Larry Peh (Founder and Creative Director of &larry Pte Ltd) at The Istana on Nov 25, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG ...Read more

Seats of honor celebrated at Philadelphia Museum of Art [photos]
Newsworks.org, November 21st

They bought the right to manufacture and sell pieces including the Nelson sunburst clock and the legendary Eames chair, by some of the greatest designers in America. Eventually the company started to champion and commission its own roster of designers...Read more

Elysian Valley Bungalow Compound With Pool Asks $499k
Curbed LA, November 21st

There's a lot going on at this nearly-5,000-square-foot lot in gentrifying Elysian Valley. The main house, a colorful 660-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow, is up front, but behind it is a pool, a guest unit with a full bathroom, a "mini...Read more

The Singular Artist of New Yorkistan
Daily Beast, November 14th

On thin shelves flanking the mantel: a William Klein photograph of a girl dancing in Brooklyn and miniature chairs designed by Vitra (a large, white Eames chair sits in the corner of the living room). Hanging on the opposite wall is a photograph of...Read more

9 Things You Thought You'd Have By 30 (And Why It's Perfectly Fine If You Don't)
Bustle, November 13th

Why It's Fine If You Don't: Again, if you've spent your broke years making crafts out of toilet paper tubes and re-purposed wrapping paper, or if you've been saving up for an Eames chair since your senior year of college, then of course you'd make...Read more

Classic Eames chair gets an update
The Malay Mail Online, November 7th

The classis Eames collection of softpad chairs have received a mild update with muted hues of the season, November 7, 2014. — AFP picZUG, Nov 7 — Swiss design brand Vitra has unveiled its “Soft Pad” chair collection in a new autumnal color palette...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