Charles and Ray Eames


Charles Ormond Eames and Ray Bernice Alexandra Kaiser met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where they both studied design and architecture in the late 1930s. They eventually married and developed a joint career based on a commitment to devising "elegant solutions" to design problems.

Ray, a former painter, had assisted Charles and Eero Saarinen with a series of molded plywood chairs and tables — an experience that benefited the couple when they moved to Los Angeles in 1941. There they perfected their process of woodworking and made splints, litters, and aircraft parts for the armed forces during World War II.

In 1946 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, showcased Charles and Ray Eames's new furniture technology. This exhibition secured them a contract with the Herman Miller company in Michigan and initiated a 30-year relationship that produced many of the enduring furniture designs of the twentieth century.

In the late 1940s, the Eameses designed a house for the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture magazine. From the 1950s onward, they expanded their design and architectural practice to include the production of films and exhibitions — including Toccatta for Toy Trains (1957) and Mathematica(1961) — that used a variety of media to engage the imagination of the public.

In 1989, SFMOMA acquired the entire contents of the Eames Office conference room, which design visionaries Charles and Ray Eames had occupied for over 40 years. Using historic photographs as a guide, SFMOMA re-assembled the conference room as it was arranged during the time of its use, and presented it as part of the 2018 exhibition Designed in California.Close study of the conference room’s artifacts and audiovisual technology was supported in part by SFMOMA’s Artist Initiative, which is generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Works in the Collection

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