Best known for their LCW chair, which Time magazine called the “the chair of the century”, Charles and Ray Eames made groundbreaking contributions to American architecture, manufacturing, photography, film, graphic design, and furniture design. Their profound influence is far-reaching, and their visionary ideas transformed how Americans style their homes.
Destined for success, both Ray and Charles achieved independent successes before their creative partnership. Born in 1912, Ray Kaiser Eames eventually moved from California to New York City to study abstract expressionist painting. Not only was she a founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936, but her work is still on permanent display at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The Groundbreaking Original: Molded Plywood Lounge Chair
In 1945, the Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW) was created with innovative molding techniques.
It’s now an icon of American design.
After being deemed “too modern”, Charles Eames parted ways with the Washington University in St. Louis, where he was studying architecture. It was at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Charles and Ray began collaborating for an exhibition titled, “Organic Design in Home Furnishings”. Married in 1941, they settled in Los Angeles and began their impactful career.
In California, the duo further developed their trademark molded plywood design. With a goal of creating functional, affordable, and comfortable options for consumers, their styles were quickly popularized for both commercial and home use. This experimental design and production method became known as the ECW (Eames Chair Wood) model, which is still in production today.
The Eames’ innovative product line was eventually expanded to include molded plywood tables, lounges, and storage units. Ever experimenting and evolving, they later crafted with fiberglass and aluminum materials. These incredibly modern styles heavily impacted 20th century households and furniture design in America. In fact, in 1985, the Industrial Designers Society of America named them the “Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century”.
A Modern Icon: Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Designed for the Herman Miller furniture company, the Eames Lounge Chair
is the first style the Eameses offered for a high-end market.
Their breakthrough work in mastering materials was revolutionary. But they didn’t stop there. After their success in furniture design, the Eameses shifted towards architecture. In response to the postwar housing shortage, they built Case Study House #8 for a project sponsored by California Arts and Architecture magazine. Equally shaping and shaped by American culture, their house was built reflecting shortages in building materials following the war. This prototype, or case study, became a symbol for postwar modern architecture.
By introducing the world to their manufacturing style and use of materials, innovative philosophies, and patriotic altruism, Charles and Ray Eames have made lasting impressions in many aspects of American life. The styles are iconic and forms are instantly recognizable and undeniably theirs. The Eames Lounge Chair, Eames Chair Wood, ottomans, tables, and entire catalog led to a whole new look in furniture and design, and are still incredibly popular today.