Mid-Century Modern at the Library: The Eameses

Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife team, were responsible for some of the most iconic furniture design of the 20th century. They combined new production methods with aesthetic principle to produce beautiful furniture that could also be mass produced. Their goal was to bring design to the masses. Along with Harry Bertoia and George Nelson their designs became the hall-marks of mid-century modern design.

Charles and Ray Eames pinned to the roof of their house by chair legs.

Charles Eames began designing furniture in collaboration with Eero Saarinen, together they experimented with curved plywood furniture, their work was exhibited in 1942 at a MOMA show called Organic Design in Home Furnishings, you can find the original exhibition catalog in the CU library collection.

A Machine for Sitting: The Eameses labored to perfect their chairs. They tested and tested in order to contour the pliable material to best support the human anatomy. The result is supremely comfortable chairs without cushions or upholstery. They utilized bent & molded plywood, poured fiberglass, or wire-frames in order to conform to the human body. Charles Eames’s obituary in the Washington Post called him the man “who changed the way the 20th century sat down.” You can find this newspaper article and more in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Ray Eames’s sketch of molded plywood chairs

Eames furniture was meant to be functional, it was a tool for modern living. These mass-produced products could serve a variety of everyday uses, they were often stackable or foldable and always durable. “You usually find, that what works is better than what looks good, You know, the looks good can change, but what works, works.” -Ray Eames (The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention, 10)

Eames La Chaise

Lounge Chair Wood (LCW)











Fiberglass rocking chair

Eames Side Chair













Images of Eames furniture can be found on Artstor.

The Eameses also became involved in architecture, working to design the Case Study Houses in California, including their own house:

The Eames House

Interior of Eames house














Their work was featured in the classic design magazine Arts & Architecture, which is known for its innovative covers. you can see original copies of the magazine in the library’s collection. Finding design articles can be be achieved by using the  Design & applied arts index (DAAI).

Arts & Architecture Cover featuring Eames furniture


Later in their careers they began producing educational films which you can watch on DVD from the library.

You can see examples of Eames furniture in the Library Commons, their segmented base tables and famous shell chairs are clustered around the Laughing Goat.

Eames Chairs and Tables in Norlin Commons

  3 comments for “Mid-Century Modern at the Library: The Eameses

  1. Ross
    September 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Great article on the Eames’! No mention of Herman Miller though? Some of their best and greatest work was in collaboration with Herman Miller and their stable of great designers. Herman Miller still sells some of the their best designs today with my favorite being the Eames Lounge chair.

  2. February 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Great reading. i have four of Eames Side Chair and they are really well designed and conferrable as well.

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