Charles Eames and his wife Ray are not household names, and yet their inventive genius is present in just about every household – not to mention airports, restaurants, and other public places all over the world.
They got their start during World War II creating laminated plywood splints for wounded military personnel. They were better than the metal splints that easily transmitted vibrations to wounds and fractures.
When the war ended, Charles and Ray branched out, applying what they had learned about hot-molding wood laminates to furniture design. All across the country, there was a mad scramble to build houses for returning servicemen, and all those houses needed furniture.
Charles and Ray entered a furniture design contest run by the Museum of Modern Art with a single shelled molded plywood lounge chair that was comfortable even though it had no upholstery. It was designed of soft but lasting material to fit the design of the human body. And being so simple, it was inexpensive to make, also a major plus. They won the contest.
That chair was introduced commercially in 1946 and is still being made. In its last issue of 1999, Time magazine named it the Best Design of the 20th century.
The Eames didn’t just invent creative furniture; they also invented the tooling to make it. Manufacturers just loved them and with reason. Their chairs were, and are, comfortable, simple and inexpensive.
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