Charles Eames' 106th Birthday

Posted 17th June 2013 by Aaron Jones

Charles Eames' 106th Birthday

Charles Eames was born in St Louis, Missouri on 17th June 1907. Eames, and his wife Ray, are generally recognised as figure-heads in modern design, both in furniture and architecture.

Design was a major part of Eames' formative years, as his uncle was William S. Eames- a St Louis architect. By the time he was 14, Eames was attending Yeatman high school, which speacilises in visual arts with a focus on drawing and painting. Around this time. he also worked for Laclede Steel Company where he continued his education in drawing and architecture.

Charles went on to study architecture at Washington University in St Louis on a scholarship. However after two years, Eames was dismissed by the university. Sources have cited the reason for his dismissal was that his views on architecture were "too modern". Another popular reason is that he was employed as an architect by Trueblood and Graf whilst still at the university, and his perfomance began to drop due to the time he spent on work rather than study.

He met his first wife Catherine Woermann at the university. They married in 1929 and had a daughter, Lucia, a year later.

In 1930, Eames went into partnership with Charles Gray and set up a architectural partnership in St Louis, They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley.

Greatly influenced by Eliel Saarinen- he would become a partner and friend of the architects son, Eeron- Charles moved his family to Michigan, in order to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art on the former's invitation. He would later become a teacher and head of the indutrial design department at the school.

In 1941, Eames and Eero Saarinen designed prize-winning furniture together for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. Their work displayed a new technique of wood moulding- he would use this new skill in many of furniture designs, most notably the classic Eames Lounger and Stool.

During the same year, Charles and Catherine divorced, and he married Ray Kaiser (a colleague at Cranbrook). He moved with her to Los Angeles, California- they would work and live there for the rest of their lives. In the late 1940s, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine's "Case Study" program, Ray and Charles designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study #8, as their home. This remains a milestone of modern achitecture.

Charles Eames died of a heart attack on 21st August 1978 while on a trip in St Louis.


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