Charles Eames (1907 – 1978)
Charles Eames is one of the most important figures in architecture and furniture design. His work had a profound influence on what the modern home looks like, both inside and out. Eames was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He received a scholarship to study architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, but he left after just two years. According to some accounts, he was kicked out because the faculty felt he was “too modern”.
In 1938, Eames moved from Missouri to Michigan to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. That’s where he met Bernice “Ray” Kaiser, a fellow student at Cranbrook with a background in abstract painting. Together, they worked (along with Eero Saarinen, the designer of St. Louis’s iconic Gateway Arch) on a set of moulded plywood furniture, which won the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition in 1940. In 1941, Charles divorced his first wife and married Ray. Then, they moved to Los Angeles.
In 1943, they opened the Eames Office in Los Angeles’s Venice neighborhood.
The Eamses didn’t just use moulded plywood. They experimented with many other materials, including fibreglass, plastic resin, and wire mesh.
Their Lounge Chair Wood (LCW) is one of the most famous pieces of furniture of all time. Dubbed “the chair of the century” by Time magazine, its curvaceous design was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the back
The Eames weren’t limited to just furniture, either. They took on a wide variety of projects. For example, they developed moulded plywood leg splints for the US Navy and a series of educational exhibits for IBM.
In 1949, the Eames completed the Eames House. It served as their home and studio, and it’s now known as an architectural marvel. What’s especially impressive about the Eames House is that in addition to being beautiful, it’s also a comfortable place to live. There’s an abundance of space and natural light. In 2006, the United States government designated the Eames House as a National Historic Landmark.
The Eames were avid filmmakers. They produced over 100 short films. Some of these films were standard home video fare; they shot footage of themselves collecting souvenirs while traveling (the Eames maintained an extensive toy collection). Other films were more experimental, such as one that depicted nothing but soap suds flowing down a parking lot. They never stopped trying out new ideas.
The Eames Lounge Chair
The Eames’ masterpiece is the Eames Lounge Chair. It’s the perfect mix of beauty and function. While most pieces produced by the Eames were designed to be affordable for the middle-class, the Eames Lounge Chair is marketed toward high-end households.
It’s expensive, but it’s also comfortable. Charles said he wanted it to feel like a well-worn baseball glove. The fluid design of the moulded plywood shells is so striking that the original Eames Lounge Chair is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. You can grace your space with an Eames Lounge Chair, too. It’s only a click or two away.