Charles & Ray Eames are amongst the most influential and innovative designers in architecture and design. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America’s industrial heartland. Eames worked with a number of engineers and manufacturers and had a great interest in mechanics and how things worked. He studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis and opened his own office together with Charles M. Gray in 1930.
In 1935 he founded another architectural firm with Robert T. Walsh. After receiving a fellowship in 1938 from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, he moved to Michigan and assumed a teaching position in the design department the following year. In 1940 he won first prize (alongside fellow designer Eero Saarinen) for their joint entry into the ‘Organic Design in Home Furnishings’ competition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
During this time he met artist and painter Ray Kaiser whilst working at Cranbrook Academy of Art, whom he married in 1941. Ray Eames, née Bernice Alexandra Kaiser, was born in Sacramento, California in 1912. She attended School in Millbrook, New York, and continued her studies in painting under Hans Hofmann through 1937. During this year she exhibited her work in the first exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at the Riverside Museum in New York.
The inseparable duo designed some of the most iconic furniture of the twentieth century. Charles and Ray were fascinated by the elegant and organic shapes of moulded plywood, so much so that they installed a workshop in the spare room of their rented home in LA. Their first order for 5,000 moulded plywood leg splints from the US Navy allowed them to expand.
They went on to design and produce sculpture, chairs, screens, tables and toys in plywood, including the legendary Eames Elephant now mass-produced by Vitra in a more cost-efficient and child-friendly moulded plastic. It wasn’t long before Herman Miller, the US furniture group, were persuaded to put many Eames plywood pieces into production by Head of Design, George Nelson.
Charles & Ray then began experimenting with plastic and aluminium during the mid 1950′s. In 1956 the pair designed the Eames Lounge Chair, which to this day, is their most iconic design. In 1957, they began to collaborate with their European partner, Vitra, who still produce many of their classic pieces including the elegant aluminium group office chairs.
The couple continued to work together in Southern California for forty years, resulting in exhibitions, films, photographs and numerous furniture designs. They also built their own innovative home in the Pacific Palisades, which continues to be a Mecca for architects and designers from all over the world. With their design principle to ‘make things better’, it’s easy to see why Charles and Ray Eames’s furniture designs continue to remain stylish, functional and coveted today.
Charles & Ray Eames’s furniture designs are now manufactured by Vitra and are supplied worldwide for large scale projects and individuals homes.