Charles and Ray Eames

A Brief Biography

Charles Ormond Eames, Jr and Bernice Alexandra “Ray” (maiden name Kaiser) Eames were American designers. Charles Eames lived from 1907-1978 and Ray Eames lived from 1912-1988. Charles and Ray Eames were one of the most important contributors to the development of modern architecture, furniture design, industrial design, film and photography.

Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen – father of renowned architect Eero Saarinen. At Eliel Saarinen’s request, in 1938, Charles moved 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 lead the industrial design department.

One of Charles Eames’ famous quotes was:

Ideas are cheap. Always be passionate about ideas and communicating those ideas and discoveries to others in the things you make.

In 1933, Ray Eames graduated from Bennett Women’s College in Millbrook, New York, and moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist painting. In 1940, Ben Baldwin, an architect and friend, recommended she began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She learned a variety of arts, not limiting herself to abstract painting. She worked with Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames and others on the display panels for the exhibition “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” at Museum of Modern Art. Ray ended up marring Charles Eames in 1941. The two settled in Los Angeles, California and Charles and Ray Eames began an incredible career in design and architecture.

Ray Eames would say the following about design:

What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.

After Charles and Ray Eames moved to California, they continued their molded plywood furniture design. The Eameses pioneered technologies, such as fiberglass furniture, plastic resin chairs, and the wire mesh chairs designed for Herman Miller. Their graphic and commercial artwork can be clearly attributed to Ray, she designed twenty-six cover designs for the journal Arts & Architecture during 1942 to 1948, and a major part of the Eames furniture advertisements at Herman Miller, since 1948.

The design office of Charles and Ray Eames functioned for more than four decades – from 1943 to 1988 – in the former Bay Cities Garage in Venice, Los Angeles, California.

Charles Eames died in Saint Louis, Missouri on August 21, 1978 at the age of 71. Ray Eames died in Los Angeles, California on August 21, 1988 at the age of 73.

Key works

Eames Lounge Chair Wood | Furniture Design [1945]
DSR Chair | Furniture Design [1948]
La Chaise | Furniture Design [1948]
Case Study House No. 8 (also known as the Eames House) | Los Angeles, California [1949]
Wire Chair | Furniture Design [1951]
Lounge Chair and Ottoman | Furniture Design [1956]

Photo of Case Study House No. 8 taken by Gunnar Klack, entitled “Eames House”
(CC BY-SA 2.0)