The Eameses are best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design and manufacturing, and the photographic arts.
Charles Eames was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, attended school there and developed an interest in engineering and architecture. After attending Washington University in St. Louis on scholarship for two years, he began working in an architectural office and in 1930 opened his own architectural practice. He then extended his design ideas beyond architecture and received a fellowship to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he eventually became head of the design department.
Ray Kaiser Eames was born in 1912 in Sacramento, California and studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before moving on to Cranbrook Academy where she met and assisted Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition. Their designs, created by moulding plywood into complex curves, won them the two first prizes.
Charles and Ray married in 1941 and moved to California where they continued their furniture design work with moulding plywood. In 1946, Evans Products began producing the Eameses’ moulded plywood furniture and their iconic chair was deemed ‘the chair of the century’ by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy. Soon production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., who continues to produce the furniture in the US today with Vitra International, manufacturing the furniture in Europe.
In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own home in Pacific Palisades, California as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine. Their design and innovative use of materials made the house a mecca for architects and designers, and it is still considered as one of the most iconic post-war residences globally.
The Eames Lounge chair and ottoman have classically only been available upholstered in leather, but are now manufactured by Herman Miller in upholstered fabrics.