How often has a chair design changed the world?
For art historians, the Eames style lounge chair is a key contribution to post-World War II home design. For interior designers, modern conceptions of the chair are still a reliable go-to for a simple yet beautiful look. And for chair users everywhere, the Eames chair is a familiar image that can instantly bring back the memories of its era.
Even people who have never heard the name “Eames” before will recognize the curved features and comfortable look of the Eames chair. Modern versions of the chair have permeated the cultural consciousness. And here’s how it all came together:
The Love Story of Ray and Charles
Ray and Charles Eames, the designers of the original Eames style lounge chair, first met at an academy of art just before the second World War. They didn’t know it at the time, but the limitations and needs of wartime would spur the creation of one the most iconic chairs of the era.
Both designers learned different forms of art before coming to chair design. Ray had studied abstract painting with Hans Hoffman, and Charles had his own architectural office. It turned out to be the perfect combination.
At the art academy, Ray was a student, and Charles was a teacher. They fell deeply in love and got married at a friend’s apartment in 1941. They were on their way to becoming a powerhouse couple in the world of art.
A Well-Used First Baseman’s Mitt
Ray and Charles Eames created splints, houses, and tables before having the idea for the 1956 invention that would change the world of chairs forever: the Eames molded plywood chair. According to the couple, the inspiration for the chair came from film director Billy Wilder’s lounging habits.
Billy was friends with Ray and Charles, and so they often saw him hanging out around set. They noticed that Billy had a makeshift lounge chair where he would sneak a nap between takes.
By this time, Ray and Charles already knew how to mold plywood. They had needed to learn this technique to create items for the U.S. Navy in World War II. And they had created some molded fiberglass armchair designs a few years prior, an idea that had come out of the limited resources of the post-war period.
Now, they had what they needed in order to create something entirely new.
Charles wanted to create a chair that had “the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt” that could “ease the strains of modern living.” This ‘baseball mitt’ chair would go on to give Ray and Charles Eames their spot in history.
The Impact of the Eames Style Lounge Chair
While it’s still possible to buy an original Eames chair, modern takes of the design have exploded since the chair’s original creation. The original design was meant as a lounge chair, but now you’ll be able to recognize its influence on curved desk chairs, dining chairs, and even conference chairs.
Take a look around your house, school, or office, and chances are you’ll spot a descendant of this revolutionary chair. Maybe as time has gone on, we’ve needed to “ease the strains” of modern life more than ever.
Now You Know!
Sometimes a love story, a lucky friendship, and the consequences of wartime come together to create something unexpected. In the case of the Eames style lounge chair, it led to the creation of an iconic piece of home furniture.
Now, the next time you see one of these chairs out in the real world, you’ll know exactly where it came from.