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Forever Eames

A hundred years ago, a Modernist icon was born. Charles Eames went on to craft the new California home with wife Ray. Their 1949 house is the blueprint for 21st century L.A. living.

June 28, 2007|David A. Keeps | Times Staff Writer

1939-41: Charles joins Cranbrook faculty. Collaboration with Eero wins two first prizes in New York's Museum of Modern Art home furnishings competition. Entries include molded plywood chair and modular storage that can be assembled at home.

1941: Charles divorces. He marries Cranbrook student Ray Kaiser. They move to Los Angeles and live in the Richard Neutra-designed Strathmore Apartments in Westwood.

1942: Navy adopts the Eameses' molded plywood leg splints. Eames Office continues experiments with molded aircraft parts and domestic furniture, eventually opening a workshop on what later becomes Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.

1947: Herman Miller Co. begins manufacturing Eames furniture, including folding tables, screens and the molded plywood LCW, above, known as the "potato chip chair."

1949: Eames House, made of a steel frame assembled in two days, completed in Pacific Palisades as Case Study House No. 8.

1950: Charles and Ray make their first 16-millimeter film, "Traveling Boy," using windup toys as actors. Their iconic plastic "shell" chairs are introduced.

1951-53: Wire-base "surfboard" tables, wire mesh chairs and Hang-It-All coat rack designed.

1954-56: Eames Office develops stackable linked seats, seen in school auditoriums to this day. Lounge Chair and Ottoman become signature pieces for Herman Miller.

1957-59: Eames Office designs miniature railroad station at Griffith Park. Firm experiments with solar power, creating moving sculpture called the Solar Do-Nothing Machine for Alcoa.

1960: Time-Life commissions Eames Office to decorate corporate lobbies in Rockefeller Center. Solid walnut stools designed for the job become classics, to be echoed by others for years to come. At right, a contemporary stool from Hivemindesign.

1961: Eames Office designs IBM's "Mathematica" exhibition for a new wing at what is now the California Science Center in L.A.

1963: Tandem Sling seating units manufactured for airports, including O'Hare in Chicago and Dulles in Washington, D.C.

1969-77: In between making more than 30 films and mounting exhibitions on historical figures such as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles and Ray refine classic chair designs with the Soft Pad and Loose Cushion collection.

1978: Charles dies.

1979-87: Ray continues work of Eames Office, issuing Eames Teak and Leather Sofa and working on exhaustive catalog.

1988: Ray dies.

1989: Films of Charles and Ray Eames released on VHS.

1990: With Eameses' work still proving relevant, European manufacturer Vitra produces the 1948 design for La Chaise.

1993: Eames classics become available to the public through Herman Miller for the Home.

1997: Library of Congress exhibition on Charles and Ray begins 10-year, nine-country tour, landing at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2000.

1999: Karim Rashid's plastic and metal Oh chair, which owes its look to the Eameses, becomes a bestseller at $50.

2000: Herman Miller reintroduces the Shell and Arm chairs in plastic instead of original nonbiodegradable fiberglass. The chairs average sales of 100,000 units per year.

2002: Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles, publishes "An Eames Primer."

2004: The Eames Foundation is created to preserve the Eames House.

2007: Blu Dot, maker of desk above, and other contemporary designers continue to riff on molded plywood and paper-clip-style legs in the spirit of Eames. In conjunction with Charles' centennial, major exhibitions are planned for every continent except Antarctica. Plywood toy elephant, designed in 1945 but never produced, to be released in a limited edition this fall.

-- David A. Keeps


More photos at

For an expanded gallery detailing Charles and Ray Eames' legacy, including their Pacific Palisades house and classic product designs as well as contemporary furniture inspired by the couple, go to

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