Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames
Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray leaving Los Angeles with the Films for the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow
Nationality American
Awards AIA Twenty-five Year Award, 1977
Royal Gold Medal, 1979
"The Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century" IDSA 1985
Practice The Eames Office
Buildings Eames House
Projects Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW)
Eames lounge chair and ottoman
'Powers of Ten'

Charles Ormond Eames, Jr (1907–1978) and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" (née Kaiser) Eames (1912–1988) (pronounced /ˈiːmz/) were American designers, who worked in and made major contributions to modern architecture and furniture. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film.


Charles Eames

Charles Eames, Jr (June 17, 1907 – August 21, 1978) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Charles was the nephew of St. Louis architect William S. Eames. By the time he was 14 years old, while attending high school, Charles worked at the Laclede Steel Company as a part-time laborer, where he learned about engineering, drawing, and architecture (and also first entertained the idea of one day becoming an architect).

Charles briefly studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on an architecture scholarship. After two years of study, he left the university. Many sources claim that he was dismissed for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern architects. He was reportedly dismissed from the university because his views were "too modern."[1] Other sources, less frequently cited, note that while a student, Charles Eames also was employed as an architect at the firm of Trueblood and Graf.[2] The demands on his time from this employment and from his classes, led to sleep-deprivation and diminished performance at the university.

While at Washington University, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, whom he married in 1929. A year later, they had a daughter, Lucia.

In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley.

Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend). At the elder Saarinen's invitation, Charles moved in 1938 with his wife Catherine and daughter Lucia to Michigan, to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a teacher and head of the industrial design department. In order to apply for the Architecture and Urban Planning Program, Eames defined an area of focus—the St. Louis waterfront. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition.[3] Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding (originally developed by Alvar Aalto), that Eames would further develop in many moulded plywood products, including, beside chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the U.S. Navy during World War II.[4]

In 1941, Charles and Catherine divorced, and he married his Cranbrook colleague Ray Kaiser, who was born in Sacramento, California. He then moved with her to Los Angeles, California, where they would work and live for the rest of their lives. In the late 1940s, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine's "Case Study" program, Ray and Charles designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study House #8, as their home. Located upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and hand-constructed within a matter of days entirely of pre-fabricated steel parts intended for industrial construction, it remains a milestone of modern architecture.

On June 17, 2008, the US Postal Service released the Eames Stamps, a pane of 16 stamps celebrating the designs of Charles and Ray Eames.

Ray Eames

Ray-Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) was an American artist, designer, and filmmaker who, together with her husband Charles, is responsible for many classic, iconic designs of the 20th century. She was born in Sacramento, California to Alexander and Edna Burr Kaiser, and had a brother − Maurice. Having lived in a number of cities during her youth, in 1933 she graduated from Bennett Women's College in Millbrook, New York, and moved to New York, where she studied abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hofmann. She was a founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936 and displayed paintings in their first show a year later at Riverside Museum in Manhattan. One of her paintings is in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art.

In September 1940, she began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She met Charles Eames while preparing drawings and models for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition and they were married the following year.[5] Settling in Los Angeles, California, Charles and Ray Eames would lead an outstanding career in design and architecture.

In 1943, 1944, and 1947, Ray Eames designed several covers for the landmark magazine, Arts & Architecture .

In the late 1940s, Ray Eames created several textile designs, two of which, Crosspatch and Sea Things, were produced by Schiffer Prints, a company that also produced textiles by Salvador Dalí and Frank Lloyd Wright. Original examples of Ray Eames textiles can be found in many art museum collections. The Ray Eames textiles have been re-issued by Maharam as part of their Textiles of the Twentieth Century collection.

Ray Eames died in Los Angeles in 1988, ten years to the day after Charles.


In the 1950s, the Eames' continued their work in architecture and modern furniture design. Like in the earlier molded plywood work, the Eames' pioneered innovative technologies, such as the fiberglass, plastic resin chairs and the wire mesh chairs designed for Herman Miller. Charles and Ray would soon channel Charles' interest in photography into the production of short films. From their first film, the unfinished Traveling Boy (1950), to the extraordinary Powers of Ten (1977), their cinematic work was an outlet for ideas, a vehicle for experimentation and education.

The Eames' also conceived and designed a number of landmark exhibitions. The first of these, Mathematica: a world of numbers...and beyond (1961), was sponsored by IBM, and is the only one of their exhibitions still extant.[6] The Mathematica Exhibition is still considered a model for scientific popularization exhibitions. It was followed by "A Computer Perspective: Background to the Computer Age" (1971) and "The World of Franklin and Jefferson" (1975–1977), among others.

The office of Charles and Ray Eames, which functioned for more than four decades (1943–88) at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice, California, included in its staff, at one time or another, a number of remarkable designers, like Henry Beer and Richard Foy, now co-chairmen of CommArts, Inc.; Don Albinson; Deborah Sussman; Harry Bertoia; and Gregory Ain, who was Chief Engineer for the Eameses during World War II.[7] Among the many important designs originating there are the molded-plywood DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and DCM (Dining Chair Metal with a plywood seat) (1945), Eames Lounge Chair (1956), the Aluminum Group furniture (1958) and as well as the Eames Chaise (1968), designed for Charles's friend, film director Billy Wilder, the playful Do-Nothing Machine (1957), an early solar energy experiment, and a number of toys.

The couple often produced short films in order to document their interests, such as collecting toys and cultural artifacts on their travels. The films also record the process of hanging their exhibits or producing classic furniture designs. Some of their other films cover more intellectual topics. For example, one film covers the purposefully mundane topic of filming soap suds moving over the pavement of a parking lot. "Powers of Ten" (narrated by the late physicist Philip Morrison), gives a dramatic demonstration of orders of magnitude by visually zooming away from the earth to the edge of the universe, and then microscopically zooming into the nucleus of a carbon atom.

Charles Eames died of a heart attack on August 21, 1978 while on a consulting trip in his native Saint Louis, and now has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Ray died 10 years later. At the time of Charles' death they were working on what became their last production, the Eames Sofa, which went into production in 1984.

From the beginning, the Eames furniture has usually been listed as by Charles Eames; indeed in the 1948 and 1952 Herman Miller bound catalogs, only Charles' name is listed, but it has become clear that Ray was deeply involved and should be considered an equal partner. The Eames fabrics (many are currently available from Maharam) were mostly designed by Ray, as were the Time Life Stools. But in reading the various books on Eames, and seeing the photos of furniture development, it is clear that Ray's involvement is absolute. In 1979, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded Charles and Ray with the Royal Gold Medal.


In 1970–71, Charles Eames gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. At the lectures, the Eames viewpoint and philosophy are related through Charles' own telling of what he called the banana leaf parable, a banana leaf being the most basic dish off which to eat in southern India. He related the progression of design and its process where the banana leaf is transformed into something fantastically ornate. He explains the next step and ties it to the design process by finishing the parable with:

But you can go beyond that and the guys that have not only means, but a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, go the next step and they eat off of a banana leaf. And I think that in these times when we fall back and regroup, that somehow or other, the banana leaf parable sort of got to get working there, because I'm not prepared to say that the banana leaf that one eats off of is the same as the other eats off of, but it's that process that has happened within the man that changes the banana leaf. And as we attack these problems—and I hope and I expect that the total amount of energy used in this world is going to go from high to medium to a little bit lower—the banana leaf idea might have a great part in it.



Eames House entry (Case Study House #8)
  • Sweetzer House (between 1930–33)
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch model home (193?)
  • St. Mary's Church (Helena, Arkansas) (1934)
  • St. Mary's Church (Paragould, Arkansas) (1935)
  • Dinsmoor House (1936)
  • Dean House (193?)
  • Meyer House (1938)
  • Bridge house (Eames-Saarinen) (1945)
  • Entenza House (1949)
  • Eames House (1949)
  • Max De Pree House (1954)

Selected films

  • Traveling Boy (1950)
  • Blacktop: A Story of the Washing of a School Play Yard (1952)
  • Parade Parade Or Here They Are Coming Down Our Street (1952)
  • A Communications Primer (1953)
  • House: After Five Years of Living (1955)
  • Day of the Dead (1957)
  • Toccata for Toy Trains (1957)
  • Kaleidoscope Jazz Chair (1960)
  • Powers of Ten (1968, rereleased in 1977)
  • Image of the City (1969)
  • Banana Leaf (1972)
  • Fiberglass Chairs
  • SX-70
  • Eames Lounge Chair

Exhibition design

  • Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India (1955)
  • Glimpses of the USA (seven screens for the American exhibition in Moscow, Sokoolniki Park) (1959)
  • Mathematica (for IBM, 1961)
  • IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair
  • Nehru: The man and his India (1965)
  • The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1975) built for the US Bicentennial Commission opens in Paris, travels to five other countries and the US.

Exhibitions and retrospectives


  • "Eventually, everything connects."—Charles Eames [from]
  • "Innovate as a last resort."[citation needed]
  • "Design is the appropriate combination of materials in order to solve a problem."[citation needed]
  • "I have never been forced to accept compromises but I have willingly accepted constraints." [10]
  • "Take your pleasures seriously."[citation needed]
  • “The details are not the details. They make the design.”[citation needed]
  • "I like to consider myself to be very very funny, the funny thing is, I dont know what a joke actually is."[citation needed]


  1. ^ Eames Seating, Tables, and Storage Units
  2. ^ Charles Ormond Eames : architect biography
  3. ^ Eliot F. Noyes. Organic Design in Home Furnishings. Museum of Modern Art. 1941.
  4. ^ Alexandra Griffith Winton. Charles Eames (1907–78) and Ray Eames (1912–88). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed 12 December 2007.
  5. ^ McAleer, Margaret. "CHARLES AND RAY EAMES: A Register of Their Papers in the Library of Congress". Retrieved May 2010. 
  6. ^ The original was created for a new wing of the (currently named) California Science Center; it is now owned by and on display at the New York Hall of Science. In late 1961 a duplicate was created for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago; in 1980 it moved to the Museum of Science, Boston. Another version was created for the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair IBM exhibit. After the World's Fair it was moved to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle where it stayed until 1980.
  7. ^ Denzer, Anthony (2008). Gregory Ain: The Modern Home as Social Commentary. Rizzoli Publications. ISBN 0-8478-3062-4. 
  8. ^ Charles Eames. Excerpt from Norton Lecture #1 by Charles Eames. Eames Office resources. Accessed 11 December 2007.
  9. ^ Review: Charles and Ray Eames at Design Museum, World Sculpture News, 4,4 (1998).
  10. ^ John Neuhart, Marilyn Neuhart, Charles Eames, Ray Eames Eames Design. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1989. page 15. (ISBN 0-8109-0879-4)
  • Caplan, Ralph, "CONNECTIONS: THE WORK OF CHARLES AND RAY EAMES". Los Angeles: UCLA, 1976.
  • Rago, David and John Sollo. Collecting Modern: a guide to mid-century furniture and collectibles. Gibbs Smith, 2001. (ISBN 1-5868-5051-2)
  • Drexler, Arthur. "Charles Eames Furniture from the Design Collection of Modern Art, New York". New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973 (ISBN 0810960281)

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Eames, Charles and Ray — born June 17, 1907, St. Louis, Mo., U.S died Aug. 21, 1978, St. Louis born Dec. 15, 1912, Sacramento, Calif. died Aug. 21, 1988, Los Angeles, Calif. U.S. designers. Charles was trained as an architect, while Ray (b. Ray Kaiser) studied painting… …   Universalium

  • Eames, Charles; and Eames, Ray — ▪ American designers Ray Eames née  Ray Bernice Alexandria Kaiser  Respectively,   born June 17, 1907, St. Louis, Mo., U.S. died Aug. 21, 1978, St. Louis born Dec. 15, 1912, Sacramento, Calif. died Aug. 21, 1988, Los Angeles, Calif.… …   Universalium

  • Ray Eames — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Eames. Ray Bernice Alexandra Kaiser Eames (née à Sacramento le 15 décembre 1912 et morte à Los Angeles le 21 août 1988) est une artiste, designer, architecte et réalisatrice de cinéma… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eames — is a surname and may refer to:* Benjamin T. Eames (1818 – 1901), U.S. Representative from Rhode Island * Charles and Ray Eames, American design couple ** Charles Eames (1907 – 1978), American designer, husband of Ray Eames ** Ray Eames (1912 –… …   Wikipedia

  • Eames Lounge Chair Wood — The Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW) (also known as Low Chair Wood or Eames Plywood Lounge Chair ) is a chair designed by husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames, considered to be one of the most influential design teams of the 20th century.… …   Wikipedia

  • Eames Lounge Chair — The Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman, correctly titled Eames Lounge (670) and Ottoman (671) were released in 1956 after years of development by designers Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company. It was the first chair the… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Ormond Eames (1907-1978) — Charles Eames Pour les articles homonymes, voir Eames. Charles Ormond Eames, junior, dit Charles Eames né le 17 juin 1907 et décède le 21 août 1978 à Saint Louis dans Missouri, était un designer, architecte et cinéaste… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ray — /ray/ for 1, 2, 4, 5; /ruy/ for 3, n. 1. John, 1627? 1705, English naturalist. 2. Man /man/, 1890 1976, U.S. painter and photographer. 3. Satyajit /sut yeuh jit/, 1921 92, Indian film director. 4. a male given name, form of Raymond …   Universalium

  • Charles Eames — Das Haus der Eames, das Case Study House No. 8 Holzstuhl von Eame …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Eames House — Infobox nrhp name = Eames House nrhp type = nhl caption = The entry door to the Eames house location = 203 N Chautauqua Blvd Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California nearest city = lat degrees = lat minutes = lat seconds = lat direction = long… …   Wikipedia