Charles Eames and Ray Eames (1907 - 78 / 1912 - 88)

American architects and designers, active Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Venice, California.


The Eameses are considered two of the most important and influential figures in all of twentieth century design. Charles Eames was born in St. Louis, MO. He briefly attended Washington University before finding work at a local architecture firm. He had established a private architectural practice by 1930.

In 1936, he was awarded a fellowship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI. There, he met Eliel Saarinen, Director of the Academy, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Ray Kaiser. Kaiser had studied painting under Hans Hofmann, and had come to Cranbrook to study weaving. She married Eames in 1941; Bertoia, designed and crafted her wedding ring.

Eames was eventually appointed head of the experimental design department. Working in collaborating with Eero Saarinen, he first gained public recognition through the 1940 "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art. He and Saarinen were awarded a prize for an innovative plywood chair, but given the wartime shortage of materials, it could not be mass produced.

Eames served the war effort by designing a molded plywood leg splint for the US Navy. In 1949, he and Ray settled in Pacific Palisades, CA, where they designed a now celebrated house for themselves out of prefabricated components. Its open plan and lightness of scale suggested Japanese architecture, and the house soon became a destination for design enthusiasts from around the world.

Eames' furniture is among the most recognizable produced during the mid century period, much of it stemming from extensive experimentation with molded plywood. Manufactured by Herman Miller, his notable pieces include the LCW, or laminated wood chair (1945), the LCM, a molded plywood chair with a tubular steel frame (1946), the ESU storage system, which doubled as a room divider (1950), and the ES106 lounge chair and ottoman (1968).

Both Eameses were also active as filmmakers, exhibition designers, and compiled a massive photographic archive. The design firm they founded is still active today.

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