History of Furniture DesignCharles & Ray Eames

14th August 2017

Charles Eames

Born in St. Louis in 1907, Charles Eames grew to have an interest in engineering and architecture. This interest led Charles to study architecture at Washington University, where after just two years he was dismissed for his support for Frank Lloyd. Following his dismissal from the university Charles began working at an architectural office and later opened his own office in 1930.

Charles began to explore more than just architectural designs, with this exploration earning Charles a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1938. The following year Charles moved to work at the Cranbrook Academy and later became the head of industrial design in 1941. During his time at the Cranbrook Academy both Charles and Eero Saarinen won first prize, in the competition for organic designs in home furnishings, with a collaborative piece they both worked on.

It was also at the Cranbrook Academy where Charles met and won Ray’s heart.

Ray Eames

Born in Sacramento in 1912 as Bernice but later known by her nick name Ray, a name that was given to her by her family members. Ray’s artistic passions were discovered early in her life, and these passions drove Ray and her mother to move to New York.

During her time in New York, Ray studied at the Bennett College and worked alongside Hans Hofmann to perfect her painting skills. In 1937 Ray’s paintings were displayed at the Riverside Museum in New York, for the first exhibition with the AAA (American Abstract Artist group).

Ray later left New York and moved to Michigan where she studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. It was at this academy where Ray met Charles, he was her teacher, her mentor and later in 1941 he became her husband.

Eames Designs

After their marriage in 1941, Ray and Charles Eames opened a design office together in Chicago, where they created multiple designs and contributed to the war efforts from 1941 to 1943.

The Eames furnishings focused on affordability and functionality for the modern home with many of these designs incorporating moulded plywood. Chinese replica furnishings like the Replica Charles Eames Chair highlight the Eames style with the use of the iconic plywood

Replica Charles Eames chair.


The moulded plywood chair was dubbed “the chair of the century”, by architectural critic Esther McCoy, and was created using a machine initially used to make plywood splints during the war. The first plywood furnishing was exhibited in 1946 at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The moulded plywood chairs were later manufactured for the public by the manufacturing company Herman Miller.

Charles’s extensive creative background earned him an honorary doctoral degree, awarded to him from the Pratt Institute in New York in 1964. Tribute was also shown in 1973 by the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) with an exhibition titled ‘Furniture by Charles Eames’.

The Eames design office closed soon after Charles’s death in 1978, yet Ray continued to work on the couples unfinished pieces until her death in 1988. Together Charles and Ray Eames designed beautiful chairs that continue to inspire others to this day.

By Tia Somerville



Margart E. Ward 2017, ‘Ray Eames’, FemBio Notable. Women. International, Viewed 7 August 2017, http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/ray-eames/

Winton A.G 2007 ,‘Charles Eames (1907-78) and Ray Eames (1912-88)’, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Viewed 7 August 2017, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eame/hd_eame.htm

2017, ‘Eames Official Site’, Charles and Ray, Viewed 8 August 2017, http://www.eamesoffice.com/eames-office/charles-and-ray/

2017, ‘Vitra International’, Charles and Ray Eames, Viewed 8 August 2017, https://www.vitra.com/en-au/corporation/designer/details/charles-ray-eames