The Eames Executive Work Chair is a classic design that continues to be popular with each generation. Originally created in 1960 for the Time-Life Building in New York City, the Eames Work Chair came to be known as the Eames Time-Life Chair and set a standard in style and design in office furnishings. The long history of the Eames Executive Chair shows that furniture of sophistication, comfort and good design can continue to be appreciated well past its initial introduction.
When looking for the origin of the Eames Work Chair, it is not something so easily defined. Charles and Ray Eames did not simply design a piece of furniture like the Eames Executive Chair and then move on to the next project. They were artists that had an internal drive to create. They used various mediums besides furniture and spent their lives diligently working on various projects both before and after the creation of the Eames Executive Chair.
Many years before the Eames Executive Work Chair was even conceived, Charles Eames was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1907. He had an early interest in engineering and architecture that turned out to be the very first steps towards the design of the Eames Work Chair. When he graduated high school, Charles went to Washington University in St. Louis on a scholarship for two years. His time was short lived at the university when the institution asked him to leave. His design ideas clashed with the architectural theories of the leadership of the school. When he left Washington University, Charles married fellow student Catherine Woermann in 1929. A year later they had Charles only child, a daughter named Lucia.
Thirty years before designing the Eames Time-Life Chair, Charles started his own architectural office and was immediately busy designing homes. Unfortunately his firm folded as a result of the great depression. He set up another practice in 1935 and was asked to design a house for Catherine's friends the Meyers. While researching the project, Charles sought the advice of the architect Eliel Saarinen. Eliel recognized the talent of Charles and offered him a fellowship at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. At Cranbrook Academy, Charles met and began working with Eliel’s son, Eero Saarinen. Eliel heavily influenced both his son and Charles. Together Charles and Eero developed a great partnership and went on to design many historical projects. Another collaborator at Cranbrook Academy was a woman who would later help Charles design the Eames Work Chair. Her name was Ray Kaiser.
Ray Kaiser Eames was born as Bernice Alexandra Kaiser in Sacramento, California in 1912. Ray came from a close and creative family. Her father was a theatre manager and both parents encouraged her love of art, film and dance. When her father died in 1929, Ray moved with her mother to New York, the future home of the Eames Executive Chair. Ray’s early interest in art eventually led her to enroll at the Art Students League where she went on to study painting with the German abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann. When her mother died in 1940, Ray left New York and began assisting Charles and Eero Saarinen at Cranbrook Academy.
In 1941, Charles divorced his first wife and married Ray. They spent their honeymoon driving out to Los Angeles, California where they would eventually create the Eames Time-Life Chair. First they were working to develop new ways of molding plywood to create innovative chair designs. Charles would sneak home wood and glue from his day job as a set architect on MGM movies. They would perform experiments in their apartment with their homemade wood molding machine. They nicknamed the machine the "Kazam!" because the plywood would form in the mold like a magic trick. It was when using this machine that the Eames first produced their first mass-manufactured product. It was a plastic leg splint that was based on a mold of Charles’ own leg. During World War II, the Navy caught wind of some of their unique design ideas and commissioned them to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells for the war effort.
Eventually their designs were recognized on a larger scale. In 1946 Evans Products began producing the molded plywood furniture designs created by Charles and Ray. As a precursor to the Eames Time-Life Chair, the Eames molded-plywood chair was an attempt to make a single seating chair that would be comfortable without a padded seat. When they discovered that plywood would not withstand the stress produced where the seat and back met, they changed tactics and began working on a two-piece chair with separate pieces for the seat and back. The chair was introduced to the public in 1946 and rose in popularity after influential architectural critic Esther McCoy declared the Eames molded plywood chair as "the chair of the century." Concepts realized during the creation of the plywood chair would later on aid them when they began working on The Eames Executive Work Chair.
Charles and Ray didn't completely abandon the idea of a chair crafted from a single body-fitting shell. They soon discovered the progressive quality and mold ability of plastic. They contacted a company called Zenith Plastics. Charles and Ray began working with the company to re-conceptualize the use of the material. Together they created the first one piece plastic chair with an exposed surface. Zenith began mass-producing the chairs in 1950 for Herman Miller and continued production until just recently. Soon Herman Miller took over production of all of Eames furniture including the soon to be created Eames Executive Chair.
In 1949 Charles and Ray showed off their architectural skills when they took a break from furniture and designed and built their home in Pacific Palisades, California. The home was part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. The building of the house was a result of the friendship between Charles and John Entenza. Entenza was the editor of the Los Angeles based Arts & Architecture magazine. The magazine wanted to find ways to design cost-effective housing for a booming postwar nation. Entenza purchased three acres and commissioned Charles and Eero Saarinen to create two homes: One for Entenza and one for Charles and Ray.
When the designs were originally created, the actual construction was delayed for three years due to postwar supply shortages. During that time, Charles and Ray would picnic in the area where their house was going to be built. It dawned on them that for the construction of their home, they would be destroying the natural beauty of the site. They decided to reconfigure the design of the house to become a part of the surroundings instead of taking away from what was already there.
Known equally well in the architectural field as well as for the design of the Eames Executive Work Chair, the couple's innovative and sophisticated use of materials have made their house a stopping point for designers and architects from all over the world. In the same way the Eames Executive Chair is still held with high regard, their home design is still considered one of the most important post-war homes built anywhere. Even though they explored other creative outlets, the Eames continued designing furniture well into the 70s. As a warm up to the Eames Executive Chair, they explored the use of leather and plywood when they developed the famous Lounge Chair and Ottoman in 1956. The lounge chair became an icon of the 1960s and 1970s. Executives of the time required one in their office to complement their Eames Work Chair.
In 1960, the Eames Executive Work Chair made its debut in the Time-Life Building. In much the same way as their home was a result of a friendship, the Eames Work Chair was as well. As the story goes, Charles Eames was asked by George Nelson to help design the U.S. pavilion at the Moscow world exhibition in 1959. The project had a tight deadline and Charles needed help. He had a specific vision for a slide show in the exhibition so Charles reached out to his friend Henry Luce, the chairman of Time-Life. He asked Henry for access to the vast image archive owned by the Time-Life company. Henry said yes, but with a condition. Henry wanted Charles to return the favor one day. Charles agreed and went on to make the exhibit in Moscow a giant success. A year later, Charles received a call from Henry requesting he design what would soon be known as the Eames Executive Chair for his new building in New York City. Although many consider the Eames Work Chair to have been largely designed and developed by Ray, she and Charles introduced the Eames Executive Work chair together. Soon the Eames Executive Chair would be given the nickname the Eames Time-Life Chair.
The Eames Executive Work Chair was designed using the highest quality materials. It features an aluminum base and frame and detailed leather upholstery. The Eames Executive Chair is a piece of office furniture of a generous size, and the contoured deep cushions and padded arms create a sense of luxury and sophistication not shared by other office chairs. The Eames Work Chair fulfilled the request for a chair that worked well in a lobby as well as around the conference table. Although the Eames Time-Life Chair was a large sized piece, the Eames Work Chair was developed to meet the need for comfortable office furniture smaller in size than the famous Eames Lounge Chair. The Eames Executive Chair needed to be able to adjust with the individual occupying the chair. With a 360 degree swivel and tilt function, the Eames Time-Life Chair was a perfect fit for just about any corporate executive. Charles was once quoted saying, "The details are not the details. They make the design." It was obvious that the Charles and Ray both heavily considered the details that would go into creating an enduring piece of furniture like the Eames Executive Work Chair. The Eames Time-Life Chair is forever connected to the culture of mid-20th century corporate America.
How Charles and Ray worked together on the Eames Executive Chair and other projects was due to a unique partnership that drew from each of their respected backgrounds. Charles was the trained architect and Ray was the painter. A design like the Eames Time-Life Chair was a collaboration that blurred the line between innovations in furniture technology and art. They always had a full understanding of the materials they were working with and how they could be put to use to aid the needs of the user. The Eames Work Chair is a perfect example.
The Eames took great pride in designing the Eames Executive Work Chair as well as their other creations. The overall point of the Eames Executive Chair and their other designs was to provide the user with a comfortable resting place. With its sleek and sophisticated design, the Eames Time-Life Chair has become a staple in the realm of office furniture. Many television shows reach for the Eames Time-Life Chair when they need to create that perfect office environment.
Besides its obvious comfort, the Eames Executive Chair sends a message of style and confidence to people as they enter a room. Users of the Eames Work Chair have an unending loyalty to the product. The Eames Work Chair provides a soft place to sit for hours. Working while sitting on the Eames Executive Work Chair allows people to concentrate on the work while relaxing. Recognized as an enduring design, the Eames Work Chair continues to be in high demand.
When Ray and Charles created the Eames Work Chair, they knew they were designing a chair that would provide the comfort people require. As some of the most cherished designers of the 20th century, Charles and Ray and their Eames Executive Work Chair will continue to be revered for years. Discover the comfort and enjoyment of the Eames Time-Life Chair for yourself.