At Barcelona Designs, we have two kinds of Eames office chairs: the ribbed back Eames Aluminum Group replicas, and the soft pad chairs that have a kind of different design. There are two of each, and all four come from the original designs created by Charles and Ray Eames. However, there are some differences between them, and they were not created at the same time, even though they come from the same production line. Let’s talk a little about where they come from and how they came to be the chairs that we know and love today.
Charles and Ray Eames were an American couple that rose to fame as furniture designers and architects in the 1950s and 60s. They married in 1941 and started to work together and general designers of a lot of things, becoming what people today call “industrial designers.” This term means that they didn’t just set out to work in architecture and art, their real contributions were to the industry of it all, where they worked to find new uses for various materials like plywood, fiberglass, fabrics, etcetera. They came to develop new techniques and uses for these materials, creating an abundant legacy of furniture pieces but also buildings, toys, and even films.
The Eames Office chairs and a much-needed gift to a friend
In 1943, Charles and Ray Eames started the Eames Office, which still stands today under the direction of contemporary designers and architects. However, at the time, Charles and Ray Eames were involved with many famous designers, of which some of their products we also have in stock. One of them was Eero Saarinen, Finnish-American architect and the son of master Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. He was also preoccupied with designing furniture, as the creation of the Womb chair and ottoman would later prove, but he also liked to collaborate with the Eames couple, and throw around ideas with them on industrial design.
Following the war, there was an economic boom in America that allowed the Eames Office to grow, as well as the works of Eero Saarinen himself. They started collaborating more and buildings things that other people hadn’t thought of at the time. By employing new materials for designing and creating furniture, such as the aforementioned plywood and fiberglass innovations, their designs became very revolutionary, but they didn’t always have the ideas that they needed for their projects.
Saarinen was commissioned to design and build a home for the rich American Industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his family. He was going to take care of the architectural aspect, focusing on the structure as a whole, but for the interior design part, Saarinen employed another longtime friend and designer, Alexander Girard, who was responsible for taking care of every detail in the interior, including the furniture.
Girard completed the interior furnishings with help of Eero Saarinen, who also designed the overall structure of the house to completion in 1957. At this point, everything seemed good, but when Girard visited Charles Eames that same year, he relayed to his friend that he was looking for high-quality furniture to put into the house’s terrace, but the options available by the current market had failed to be suitable for his use.
He wanted something more, and the Eameses took the opportunity to create a group of chairs that would eventually become their famed Aluminum Group of chairs. At the beginning, as we’ve said before, these chairs didn’t have the same functionality that they do today, but the story of how the transitioned from home chairs for a luxury homes to the most ubiquitous office chair in the world is very interesting, and we will examine that in depth on part two.