Saturday, July 24, 2010

24 July 1956 “Charles and Ray Eames”

eames1 Charles and Ray Eames were a husband and wife duo whose work in Art, Film, Furniture, Interiors and the list goes on, made a major stamp on mid-century life. This was their 1944 Christmas card, in the background is a plywood sculpture of theirs.
Much of what we think of when we think mid-century modern is often their work or touched by them in some way. I find it telling, as well, that a married couple should have made such an impact, when you consider our over general impression of 1950’s is the married couple.
By my time, here in 1956, their work had become literally a household name. Here is a two part special on their work which airs this year (56) on NBC.
They did much work for Herman Miller, an office furniture manufacturer in Michigan (which still resides and produces furniture there.) This chair for Herman Miller is the quintessential Herman Miller/Eames look with which most of us are familiar.This is Charles and Ray Eames, Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1956, Molded rosewood plywood, black leather upholstery, aluminum 33 x 33 x 33” (chair) 16 x 26 x 21” (ottoman) Grand Rapids Art Museum, Gift of La Vern and Betty DePree Van Kley. Photographer: Nick Merrick. Source: Museum of Arts & Design via Bloomberg News
The organic nature of their work and its fluidity mingled with sharp almost space age angles really defined the style of the 1950’s from drapes, to dresses.rayeameswithprint In the second part of the above NBC special Charles talks about his work with Herman Miller and I found it refreshing that he mentions they were not trying to make a mass market product. That the work, even for that company, was more about design and quality for the consumer, such a stark contrast from the make it quick, pump it out by the millions mentality of our modern IKEA world.
Even their own home built in 1949 with its Mondrian-esque color block facade couldn’t be more 1950’s (even though it was not yet the 50’s). HERE is an interesting page about this house and the project of their house, #8 in their ‘case study’ of building 24 houses.
I was never that intrigued by mid-century design or even art prior to my journey to 1955, but I keep finding myself becoming more enamored with it. And feeling that even in my 1710 cape style American Colonial Pre-Revolutionary house, that their clean lines and functionality can find a comfortable home with the minimal line and quality of actual colonial furniture. I find myself increasingly captivated by their work.
For more information of the amazing and interesting Eames’, HERE is a great site about their work and its affect on our culture and country.


  1. Will you continue this experiment after "1956" is up? This reminds me of the movie Julie and Julia, where Julie challenges herself to cook all the way through Julia Child's cookbook in a year!

  2. And, 50's Gal, I do apologize if I came across badly in early comments here. I didn't understand that you were going into 1956 as a war bride, having brought some of the older ways with her, as I was new to your blog several months ago, rather than as a very young wife in the early 50's who liked the modern things.

    Also, coming from a "progressive" (if you want to call it that) area of the country near N.Y.C., where it was probably already getting expensive to live, and where women were in suburbia with no extended family and not so much to do, I would remember different things than somebody from a rural area. Also, I was from a working class home and area, rather than a middle class. That would make a difference, too. I never thought about stuff like that before. My mother and mother-in-law always worked, as did most of the mothers who had 4 or fewer children, as soon as the children were in school (there was a big push for kindergartens so they could do so sooner). The mothers who had those big baby-boom families, of course, stayed home because there were more children.

    I also remember women who were teachers before they had children of their own, being begged to come back to the classroom and teach again, as the baby-boom produced a lot of children and classrooms were bulging. There was also, if I recall, a nurse shortage. So, teachers and nurses went back into the work force early.

    So, I now understand your blog better, and am reading it from the start and loving it.

  3. My folks in the 50's did combine early American antiques (my mom's hobby) and modern (Dad, the aerospace engineer) in an early American style track house. It worked fine: contemporary couches, antique tables etc. They knew a guy who worked with Eames, so they bought 2nds from them. They used the wire chairs outside as patio furniture (!) most of the Eames pieces were too officey for home use. Sunset magazines of the era are excellent resources for making modern furnishings (which Dad did).


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