Charles Eames was a great architect and designer of modern furniture. He worked closely with his second wife, Ray, and together their collaborations are still seen and in use today. Eames was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1907 and as he became an adult, the Finnish architect Eliel Saarin greatly influenced him and he moved to Michigan at Saarin?s request to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. After completing his studies he became a teacher and the head of the Industrial Design department. Together, he and Ray, pioneered innovative technologies using such materials as fiber glass, plastic resin chairs and wire mesh chairs. A couple of their best designs that are still produced today include the Lounge Chair Wood and the Lounge Chair and Ottoman.
In 1945 the Eames?s designed the Lounge Chair Wood. It was designed using a technology that they had developed prior to and during the second world war where they could mold plywood. To begin with, this design was to consist of a single piece of plywood to make both the seat and the backrest. But because the plywood could not be bent at such a sharp angle to create a comfortable shell, they decided to use two separate pieces of plywood, one for the seat and another for the backrest that could be molded to create a very comfortable chair. The two separate pieces were then joined together with a lumbar support made out of plywood as well. The chair was fixed upon four plywood legs, making the chair completely out of plywood. Because they used separate pieces and shock mounts to attach the chair together, this was one of the first chairs to provide flexibility in the backrest when it was in use.
The Lounge Chair and Ottoman were designed in 1956 and is composed of three pieces of plywood that are molded into comfortable shells. This design is somewhat of an improvement on their design of the Lounge Chair Wood. It has the same seat and backrest with a lumbar support, but it also has a headrest to support the head and neck. The headrest and backrest are both of the same proportion, and the seat and ottoman are of the same proportion, making mass production that much easier. This design also incorporated armrests into the chair, making the chair extremely versatile in its design. The backrest and headrest also have use of shock mounts, giving them flexibility when it is in use, just as the Lounge Chair Wood provides. The cushions for this design have a zipper sewn around the outer edge which connects to a stiff plastic backing, and the backing is attached to the plywood shell of the chair. By using a zipper to connect the cushion to the frame of the chair, they were able to provide a sleek, uninterrupted look that is hard to achieve with the standard nailed or stapled upholstery techniques. Another twist on the design is that it has a low seat that is fixed at a recline and swivels on a cast aluminum base.
Charles Eames and his wife Ray made many advances in the use of new and improved technology when they were designing new furniture or working on architecture projects. When one thinks of Charles Eames, Ray is usually left out of the picture, but it has come about that she was a direct influence on the designs and should be given as much credit as Charles for the designs that they made.