In anticipation of this month's Dwell on Design show, we have been thinking a lot about one of the most prominent duos in modern design history: Ray and Charles Eames. Like a lot of people, I've always associated the Eames name with the iconic midcentury designs but actually knew very little about the quirks of Charles's and Ray's dynamic personalities, or the extent of their work, until I watched Eames: The Architect and the Painter.
This intriguing documentary film exposes the inner workings of their adventurously kooky office and reveals a true love story between a man and a woman and their insatiable appetite for modernism. I highly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue!
In the meantime, discover 10 fascinating facts you may not have known about Charles and Ray Eames:
- Charles Eames was an architectural school dropout and never got his license.
- Charles's first chair design was a collaboration with Eero Saarinen and was submitted for MoMA's Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition in 1940. Even though it won, Charles considered it a failure because it couldn't be mass-produced.
- It wasn't until he was hired to design better splinters during World War II that he finally unlocked the mystery to mass-producing his plywood chair design.
- Charles met and fell in love with Bernice Alexandra "Ray" while collaborating on the design of the plywood splinters and proposed to her through this sweetly written letter.
- The Eames office was much more than a center for furniture design. It was a nonstop creative hub where employees worked and played around the clock, visiting the circus for inspiration, shooting art films, crafting toys, and traveling.
- The US government commissioned Eames to produce a film about American life that debuted to a Soviet Union audience during the height of the Cold War.
- Major corporations like Westinghouse, Boeing, Polaroid, and IBM all hired Charles to shape their public perception, which included championing the public's growing fear of the rise of computers in the '50s.
- Ray was a notorious pack rat and visual perfectionist whose office was overridden with hundreds of notes written on the backs of Benson & Hedges wrappers. Her attempt to have employees type them out turned out to be too overwhelming a task for anyone to undertake.
- An architect friend humorously recalls a dinner party at Charles and Ray Eames's home where a visual dessert of floral centerpieces was displayed after the last course.
- Ray Eames died on the exact day of the 10th anniversary of Charles's death.