"The details are not the details. They make the design."
Charles and Ray Eames are arguably the greatest furniture designers of all time. The concepts they created, the radical materials they pioneered, and the enduring furniture they built have all withstood the test of time, and are on display in museums as often as they are for sale. The Eames' were pioneers, and while the trail they blazed is often followed, they've never been bested in brilliance and quality. Eames furniture is superlative.
Charles Ray Eames built their career on this statement. Everything about a design, no matter how simple, became important to them. And every detail, beyond being cared for and pored over, had to be right. Physicist and Eames collaborator Philip Morrison: "They would be working together on something...trying to mold it, put it in place. That's the image that I have all the time. The shared task of making something which is both new and conforming, that's the thing. I guess adding a piece of paint to a painting, it's the same thing. It has to be new; it wasn't there before . . . it's no good, no use. But not just on paint, or not just on curve, but on everything: words, music, image, idea, need, everything. And that's the design element that they are talking about."
The Eames furniture bore these concepts out in their design. They were meant to reflect something of the natural beauty of the earth, and yet the Eames' almost never used natural, organic materials. Their most famous creation, the Eames Chair, was a gently curving and expertly contoured side chair in a natural mode and color; yet it was made from an unheard of material called molded plywood, which at the time was reviled but has now become a staple of modern design. Eames furniture is about complimentary contradiction, modern design, and great pieces.
Radical MaterialsCharles Eames introduced molded plywood as a design material. While at first the material may have been regarded with suspicion, it soon sent shockwaves throughout the design world. Even at the Pentagon this new material was seen for the breakthrough it was: Eames was quickly commissioned to build planes for the military during WWII. It was vindication for Eames's design, as he had been kicked out of his architecture courses at Washington University in St. Louis for being "too modern," and for championing the architecture of the now world famous Frank Lloyd Wright.
Throughout their careers as designers the Eames' kept experimenting with radical materials, including plastic, wire, molded plastic, fiberglass, and aluminum. They became famous for their innovation, a passion that led them to break out of the bounds of design to work in many fields, including physics and filmmaking.