Charles and Ray Eames’ ranked to the most significant 20th-century American designers. They mainly gained acclaim for their pioneering approaches and the courage to experiment with new and non-traditional materials – both in the field of furniture design and architecture, and photography.
Charles Eames was born in St Louis in Missouri in 1907. He still was a student when he displayed an immense interest in architecture and later – without graduating from the university – began to work in an architectonic studio. He opened his own office only several years later, in 1930. This allowed him to push through and disseminate his own furniture designs via architecture. At that time, he was already married for Catherine Woermann who gave him a daughter in the same year. Eames soon won himself such a strong position in designing furniture that he was offered to collaborate with the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan where he was appointed the head of the design department. There, he also met his second wife, Ray.
Ray Kaiser-Eames was born in Sacramento in California in 1912. Before leaving for the Cranbrook Academy where she later collaborated with Charles, she studied painting in New York with her colleague Hans Hofmann.
Charles and Ray married in 1941 and left for California where they continued designing seating furniture, mainly of bent plywood. During the war, their work focused on designing and refining medical splints and stretchers for the American navy. After the war, production of the furniture designed by the Eames’ couple was launched by the Evans Products company. The leading architecture critic, Esther McCoy, labeled their chair of bent plywood “the chair of the century”. In the following years, the furniture production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc. The company continues to deliver the Eames’ designs to this day in the United States, while the company Vitra International produces their furniture in Europe.
In 1949, Ray and Charles designed and built their own house in the framework of the Case Study House Program, sponsored by the magazine Arts and Architecture. The non-traditionally conceived house, characteristic of highly innovative use of materials, turned into an eternal inspiration for designers and architects on a global scale. Their legendary furniture of bent plywood enjoys similar success and reputation.