Charles and Ray Eames are well-known furniture designers and prolific names within the furniture industry. Over their forty-year career and during the American Mid-century Modern movement they produced a number of significant architectural and furniture designs. These included the Eames Lounge Chair (1956), DSW Chair (1950) and the Eames EA chair (1958). Many of the designs of Charles and Ray Eames have been celebrated and cherished by designers, architects, and design students. This is partly due to the iconic references each piece have on mid-century design and the simplicity of the materials that were used during this time. Many furniture designers today have been inspired by Charles and Ray Eames and the mid-century period and have created chairs, sofas and coffee tables which are reminiscent of this time and era.
Both Charles and Ray lived together in Los Angles where they experimented with plywood moldings as they were commissioned to create a leg splint for medical officers in World War II. There was a need for emergency splints and the ply moulding methods that Charles and Ray used was very effective. These methods were carried over to the furniture designs and is evident in the leg detail on the DSW chairs and the shelled back on the 'Baseball Mitt' inspired Lounge Chair.
After the war, a new generation of middle classed Americans emerged. They had new ideas and were open to change in lifestyle and home decors. Charles and Ray Eames naturally adapted to this new wave and applied a mission statement: 'We want to make the best for the least'. The furniture was simplistic, stylish and reflected this new generation of Americans who now had high levels of disposable income. Eames was a household name and due to the way production methods and materials were matched on a low cost making each piece available and affordable. The designs above all were functional and aesthetically pleasing and popular with young professionals.
This style of mass-produced functional furniture was not a new concept as the Bauhaus had adopted this approach before the war. It was, however, Charles and Ray who made it mainstream and Ray added her soft touch and playfulness to the designs giving a mass appeal.
Their work and furniture designs could be found in offices all over America at this time (think about the drama series Mad Men) as it was deemed stylish, practical and beautiful. In 1957 Vitra signed a license agreement with Herman Miller and started producing designs and office furniture for the European and Middle Eastern markets.
One of the most recognisable office chairs and arguably one of the greatest designs of the twentieth century that Eames designed and created was The Aluminium Chair. This style of chair can still today be found in many offices around the world. The leather is usually black or white and is padded or ribbed and held upon an aluminum frame. The usual method of creating this type of seating was to build a seat shell but in this case, they decided to stretch the leather from one side to another creating a taut, elasticated feel seat. The chair adapts to the body of the user and is very comfortable even without elaborate upholstery. This particular style of chair is complemented by other styles of chairs such as medium backed, footstools, and meeting chairs on glides and on c shaped frames. The popularity of the chair is of course for good reason as it's extremely durable and instantly recognisable as a design classic.