If you’ve spent any amount of time socializing with designophiles, one name in particular has likely come up – Eames, Charles Eames to be exact. It is also highly probable that this name was spoken with a tone of reverence usually reserved for dignitaries, royals and nobel prize winners. If you’ve ever left one of those conversations puzzled and wondering, “Who is this guy, and why should I care?” this article is for you.
Charles Eames is to furniture design as Frank Lloyd Wright is to architecture; both fascinating individuals who held creative visions to better the world through design. A little known fact: Eames initial field of study was in fact architecture, and he was a huge fan of Wright. He is actually rumored to have been kicked out of his university for holding some “all too modern” views the faculty just wasn’t ready for.
It should also be noted that Eames did not work alone. It is now widely acknowledged that though Charles' name was the only one to appear alongside his cataloged works, his wife Ray was an equal creative partner in all respects. The couple met as colleagues while working and studying at The Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Though the dynamic duo made a number of groundbreaking contributions to the fields of architecture, furniture design and the arts, their most widely recognized contribution is undoubtedly “the Eames Chair.” Like many of history’s greatest inventions, the chair was the product of many factors, including initial inspiration, years of prototyping, “right timing” and a genuine love of the creative process itself.
Interestingly, the design wasn’t created in a boardroom, in a focus group or in some other commissioned setting, but in the couple’s infamous design institution “The Office of Charles and Ray Eames.” From 1941 to 1978 the institute attracted the field’s top designers, incubated thousands of ideas and provided a safe haven for exploring interests with free-rein.
Though furniture itself may have been the end goal, it was hardly the primary motivation, in and of itself, for such exploration. According to the Eames official Website, whether offering a comfortable chair to sit in, or the tools to obtain knowledge, the couple’s main objective was to “get everybody to think in a more analytical and open way about how things might be different in their lives.”
At the time of its initial release, the Eames Chair was revolutionary. Never before had American employers, office workers and homeowners seen a chair that was equal parts beautiful, comfortable AND functional. The brand’s original loungers were actually stuffed with genuine down feathers (though still comfortable, today’s are filled with synthetic foam)! Up until the chair’s release, nothing even came close to what we now consider a “modern office chair.”
But perhaps, what made the piece truly special was that it was made readily available through mass production. As is still true today, many of the most innovative and interesting pieces are either exceptionally expensive to produce or are simply handmade (and produced in few quantity). Throughout the years, many design trends have come and gone, but the Eames Chair has remained as a symbol of elegance and class. To this day, the Eames family works closely with two authorized manufacturers – Herman Miller Inc. and Vitra International – to provide an exceptional product. The popular chair can now be found in lecture halls, executive offices and meeting rooms around the world. If you want to give your brand a modern and timeless quality, you simply cannot go wrong with an Eames Chair.
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