Ten Things You Maybe Didn’t Know: Charles and Ray Eames

Compiled by Antoinette Rahn

The Eames name is often associated with 20th century furniture design, but the impact and legacy of

Eames freestanding kiosk

Freestanding kiosk, designed by Charles and Ray Eames for the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It sold for $57,375 at auction in 2013. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Modern Auctions)

husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames expands into architecture, photographic arts, film, industrial composition and production. In this Ten Things You Didn’t Know column we explore more.

1 Charles and Ray Eames met at Cranbrook Academy of Art, located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Ray, a native of Sacramento, met Charles, born and raised in St. Louis, while she was assisting him and Eero Saarinen with designs for a contest sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in 1941. The designs earned two first-place finishes, and Charles and Ray married that same year.

2 A kiosk made of iron, walnut, laminated plastic and hand-painted surfaces, designed by Eames as part of the IBM Pavilion of the New York World’s Fair of 1964, sold for $57,275 in May 2013, during an auction presented by Los Angeles Modern Auctions. The kiosk is one of only two existing examples, and is part of the multi-media pavilion Eames created for IBM.

3 Often recognized for having a revolutionary influence on 20th century furniture and pioneering the interactive approach to exhibits, the Eameses’ iconic design prowess can be seen in architecture, photographic arts, film, industrial composition and production.

4 During an auction in April 2014 at Heritage Auctions, an Eames lounge chair and ottoman, produced by Herman Miller Inc. in 1956 and made of plywood, leather, steel and aluminum, fetched $4,687. The Eames chair and ottoman are popular among collectors and interior designers.

5 At www.eamesoffi ce.com, the official site of Eames Office, visitors can explore the many facets of the Eameses’ work and inspiration, educational aspects, exhibitions and events featuring Eames designs, among other things.

6 The Eameses’ pioneering design efforts also played a part in the medical care of soldiers during World War II. Upon commission by the U.S. Navy, Eames used the molded plywood approach to

Eames chair and ottoman

Eames lounge chair and ottoman, circa 1956, made of plywood, leather, steel, Rosewood veneer, commanded $4,687 at auction in 2014. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

create splints and stretchers, among other medical devices for military personnel.

7 Another recognizable representation of the Eames influence on furniture is the RAR rocker. In March 2015, a rocker manufactured in 1950 sold for $550 through Heritage Auctions. Made of fiberglass, zinc wire and walnut, the early examples of this chair also had rope edges as part of the molding, to serve as a handgrip. Later, however, at the Eameses’ insistence, the rope edges were replaced with radius edges.

8 While studying architecture on scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis, Charles Eames was expelled from the school for his support of Frank Lloyd Wright.

9 Together, the Eameses received awards and honors recognizing their work every year between 1940 and 1986, with the exception of just a few years. Several of those years resulted in receipt of more than one form of recognition.

10 Two popular books about the Eameses are “An Eames Primer,” by Eames Dementrios, grandson of Charles & Ray Eames, and director of Eames Office; and “Collecting Eames: The J.F. Chen Collection.”

Source: Eames Official Site (www.eamesoffice.com), Heritage Auctions (www. ha.com), and LiveAuctioneers.com

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