With a grand sense of adventure, Charles and Ray Eames turned their curiosity and boundless enthusiasm into creations that established them as a truly great husband-and-wife design team.
One of their chairs looked like a potato chip. Another was meant to resemble a “well-used first baseman’s mitt.” And their unique synergy led to a whole new look in furniture: Lean and modern. Playful and functional. Sleek, sophisticated, and beautifully simple. The “Eames look,” and their relationship with Herman Miller, began with molded plywood chairs in the late 1940s and went on to include the world-renowned Eames Lounge Chair (that’s the baseball mitt), now in the permanent collection at MoMA in New York.
Charles and Ray achieved their monumental success by approaching each project the same way: Does it interest and intrigue us? Can we make it better? Will we have “serious fun” doing it? Clearly, they loved their work—a combination of art and science, design and architecture, process and product, style and function. “The details are not details,” Charles famously said. “They make the product.”
A problem-solver who encouraged experimentation among his staff, Charles said his dream was “to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts.” As he noted about the development of molded plywood chairs, “Yes, it was a flash of inspiration—a kind of 30-year flash.”
With Charles and Ray, one good thing always led to another: Their revolutionary work in molded plywood led to their breakthrough in molded fiberglass seating. A magazine contest led to the highly innovative Case Study house they lived in for the rest of their lives. Their love of photography led to filmmaking and a presentation at the 1959 Moscow World’s Fair. And a wooden plank contraption, rigged up by their friend, film director Billy Wilder, for taking naps led to their acclaimed Eames Chaise.
A design critic once said that this extraordinary couple “just wanted to make the world a better place.” Charles and Ray Eames did that, and more.