If you’ve ever sat in an Eames chair, you know the simple elegance and comfort that these pieces exude. But who is the man behind such an iconic design? Today, we’re going to explore the life and work of Charles Eames.
Born in 1907 in Saint Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on a scholarship. He left school in 1929 without finishing his degree and moved to New York City where he started working for architect George Nelson. A few years later, he married his first wife, Catherine Woermann, with whom he would have two daughters. Charles and Catherine divorced in 1941.
In 1938,Charles moved to Michigan where he started teaching at Cranbrook Academy of Art. It was here that he met Ray Kaiser, a student who would eventually become his second wife. Together, they began experimenting with molded plywood and created their first piece of furniture – the surfboard-like “splint” – which they designed for injured soldiers during World War II. This was followed by the famous “LCW” or “lounge chair wood” which is now regarded as an icon of 20th century design.
After the war, Charles and Ray opened their own studio where they continued to experiment with different materials and process, such as fiberglass, plastic resin, and bent laminated wood. In 1950, they designed what is perhaps their most well-known piece – the Eames Lounge Chair – which combined molding technology with traditional upholstery techniques. The chair was an instant hit and remains popular to this day.
Charles and Ray continued to work together until Ray’s death in 1988. Charles passed away a few years later in 1997 but his legacy continues on through the foundation that bears his name – The Charles and Ray Eames Foundation – which is committed to preserving their work and sharing it with new generations.
Charles Eames was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. His innovative use of materials and passion for experimentation led to the creation of some of the most iconic pieces of furniture ever made. From his humble beginnings in St. Louis to his groundbreaking work at Cranbrook to his world-famous lounge chair, Charles Eames left an indelible mark on the world of design that continues to inspire us today.
The Famous Furniture Designs of Charles Eames
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of furniture ever designed, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were introduced in 1956 after years of development by husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames. The chairs were designed with comfort in mind and feature a molded plywood frame with leather upholstery. They quickly became (and remain) a symbol of luxury and are currently in the permanent collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Eames Fiberglass Shell Chair
In 1948, the Eames' set out to create a lightweight, stackable chair using fiberglass-reinforced plastic . The result was the fiberglass shell chair, which featured a synthetic material seat suspended by metal wire legs. The chairs were an instant hit with both consumers and commercial clients, who appreciated their low cost and durability. Today, they're still in production and can be found in homes and businesses around the world.
Eames Moulded Plywood Chair
One of the things that makes the Eames plywood chair so special is the material it is made from. Unlike other chairs which are typically made from hardwoods, the Eames chair is made from layers of thin wood veneer that are glued together under heat and pressure to create a strong, yet lightweight material. This innovative use of materials not only makes the chair more comfortable to sit in, but also gives it a unique aesthetic that has become synonymous with mid-century modern design.
Charles Eames was a groundbreaking designer whose work has left a lasting impression on the world of architecture and interior design. Along with his wife Ray, he helped shape mid-century modernism with iconic pieces like the Eames lounge chair—a design that remains popular today almost 70 years after its inception.