Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames, an American architect couple from post-World War II period, gave the interior and graphic design industry of America a new outlook. Team of this enthusiastic couple was always seen in matching outfits and same poses.  Their unending love for the details could be witnessed in their everyday life. They were fond of collecting hundreds of photographic images and mounted them in their home and office with an arrangement of folk art and other such objects collected from all around the world.

Charles Eames was born in St. Louis in 1907.  He got enrolled to study architecture at Washington University but withdrew just after two years. Some say that he was dropped reportedly from the university for his “too modern” views while others say that he started his practice as an architect along with the studies which led to a lot of fatigue and sleep deprivation that finally caused him to leave the college. In 1930s Charles set up his own firm and in 1938 he moved to Michigan to complete his studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he also served as a teacher as well as design head of industrial department. Charles remained there until 1940, married Ray Eames in 1941 and the couple moved to Los Angeles, California to start off a new set up.

Ray was born in Sacramento in 1912 and got her education in painting at the Art Students League and the Hans Hoffman School in New York. During her course of studies, she started the radical American Abstract Artists group along with her fellow students, in 1936. She left New York in 1940 and got settled in Cranbrook but this stay ended up soon when she and Charles married in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles.

Despite having an independent capability and solid design skills, Ray decided to work in collaboration with her husband for the rest of her life. The architect couple stayed  in Los Angeles and worked there until their deaths. They initiated their work by targeting on the mass- manufacturing of low-cost molded plywood furniture and by 1951, they became the first people to commercialize the mass production of very reasonable and practical low-cost furniture in plastic and metal as well as plywood. After this success, by the late 1950s, the Eames shifted their area of focus more on transmission of ideas than products. They created films, multi-media presentations and exhibitions and changed the mindsets of people about the way they shaped the use of different objects, ideas, history and science. They encouraged people to work out various possibilities of given materials and other products on their own.

The pair was not any different from other modernists. Charles and Ray Eames looked at the production of affordable, mass-produced, well-designed furniture and objects for homes as very strong tools that could bring about solid environmental reforms accompanied with a positive social change and betterment. Throughout their exuberant professional life, the Eames covered up almost all the fields of art and design. From decorators and designers to entertainers, educators and artists, they did not leave a single role unattended. Their uninterrupted struggles and extensive work philosophy, opened up new dimensions for the American style and polished it pretty well. Their efforts were summed up by Ray as, “What works is better than what looks good. The ‘looks good’ can change, but what works, works.”

Their home and office in Log Angeles showcased some most iconic mid-century modern designs. These buildings are still holding all the couple’s efforts, design philosophies and struggles firmly enough and even today people find them fascinating.

After Charles died of a heart attack on August 21, 1978, their firm dissolved. Ray got involved with the completion of their pending projects and died exactly ten years to the day Charles died.

Charles and Ray Eames Buildings