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Close your eyes and think of a 1950's chair. You got it? More than likely than not, you pictured an Eames chair. Charles Eames, and his wife Ray Eames, began designing their chairs in the forties with a single piece of formed plywood.
In the forties, shortly after marrying, the Eames' moved to California and set to work designing their soon-to-be famous chairs. The idea was to form one piece of plywood into the seat of a comfortable and affordable chair. With the machine they built to mold the seats, they were able to mass-produce their product.
The first hint of success came with an order from the US Navy for plywood leg splints. The money afforded them a genuine studio and the ability to produce their first plywood chairs. Eames chairs had the distinct modern design of the mid-twentieth century. With a curved back and seat, and aluminum legs the Eames chair was both attractive and comfortable. They were so attractive that they earned the attention of the Herman Miller Furniture Group, still one of the top furniture manufacturers in the United States, making the Eames chair a hit on the public market.
The designs kept coming, and in 1956 the Eames lounge chair was introduced. When mentioned today it is this Eames chair that first comes to mind. To see one in the twenty-first century, words such as ergonomic or organic come to mind. The curved leather-upholstered back, the fifteen-degree tilt of the seat, the five star aluminum base, and the slight give that allows you to lean back all are characteristic of the Eames chair.
The Eames contribution to modern design, however, reached well past the lounge chair. Their designs extended toward toys, sculpture, graphics, and even film. In 1949, the couple designed and built a house in Pacific Palisades, California. The Eames Foundation is currently preserving this house and the legacy of Charles and Ray.
If imitation is the sincerest sign of flattery, then Charles and Ray Eames have been flattered since their designs first appeared, and they continue to be flattered to this day. At upwards of $3,000 US Dollars (USD) for a true Eames lounge and ottoman, even the knock-offs can be expensive. But the iconic place the Eames hold in twentieth century modernism will never be compromised.
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