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.
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Recent News: Eames Chairs
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Inspired Interiors: Seeing chairs in a new lightIndianapolis Star, December 6th
The Blue Alufoil Chair, a piece designed by Christopher Schanck, is on display at the IU museum in Columbus. (Photo: Photo submitted by Christopher Schanck and Johnson Trading Gallery ). SHARECONNECTTWEETCOMMENTEMAILMORE. Give yourself ...Read more
12 Gifts For Brand SnobsCo.Design, December 5th
Got a friend who wouldn't be caught dead sitting in a knock off? You're in luck: Here are 12 gifts with plenty of designer caché. Design Snobs. You know the ones. They walk into the holiday party and immediately tally the host's inventory: Eames Chair...Read more
Is 'home porn bad for self-esteem?Stuff.co.nz, December 4th
And everything goes with an original Eames chair, yeah? It is for this reason that I reckon home design publications are to 30-something women what fashion magazines are to teenage girls. We know now that Kate Moss doesn't really look like Kate Moss...Read more
The science of comfortable seatingThe Star Online, November 30th
One of their most famous creations, the Eames Chair, is a curvy and delicately-contoured side chair that comes in natural earth or wood tones, made from a then unheard of material called plywood, which at the time was viewed with suspicion but has now ...Read more
Wallander: The Most Beautiful, Miserable Cop Show, EverRefinery29, November 30th
In each, the rumpled, red-eyed Kurt Wallander runs himself ragged trying to solve brutal crimes with topical themes, tests his strained relationship with his daughter, and falls asleep every night in a knockoff Eames chair, a half-empty bottle of red...Read more
The Story of Modernica's Shell (Eames) ChairsBabble, November 27th
Modernica did not design the fiberglass shell chairs that they sell, but they do produce the most authentic versions today. The iconic Eames chair design has been with us for over 60 years now, but the original fiberglass construction was abandoned in...Read more
The Indianapolis Museum of Art Debuts Modern Design GalleriesArchitectural Digest (blog), November 25th
Viewers will find modernist standards like the Eames chair alongside more whimsical works, including the playful Mezzadro stool by Italian designer Achille Castiglioni. The Indianapolis Museum of Art's contemporary design gallery. In the foreground...Read more
Iconic Eames are good buysThis is Kent, November 15th
T HIS week's column is dedicated to Charles and Ray Eames, a husband and wife team who were one of the most dynamic and multi-talented design partnerships of the 20th century and their work is now highly sought after by modernist collectors. The sheer ...Read more