Form Meets Function: How the Eames Style Influenced Modern Design

Charles and Ray Eames did more than make beautiful office chairs. The Eames style had a profound impact on all of modern design. Learn more.

TUT Staff

Charles and Ray Eames were uniquely talented designers.

They are perhaps most well-known for their stunning furniture pieces. However, they also excelled in architecture, photography, textile, product, and corporate design. In all these areas, they showcased a visionary design philosophy.

They realized that the industry and designers have to work together. Their joint effort holds the power to bring beautifully-designed, mass-produced products to the market.

For them, design needs to be a solution rather than a luxury. This is distinguished Eames style at its finest: a triumph of function and affirmation of form.

And so their fruitful partnership would go on to shape livable homes. Here is how they left an everlasting mark on the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Champions of the Times

Ray and Charles Eames mastered a wide array of multifunctional designs.  

Beyond everything else, they were highly attuned to the needs of a transforming society. They recognized the momentum swing and their design would support and mold modern living.

Namely, husband-and-wife saw the key to the successful design was in ensuring prime functionality. At the same time, they had no intention of sacrificing anything, including form. Their mission was to “create the best, for the most (people), for the least (price)”.

But, instead of playing it safe, they decided to take a bold experimental approach.  

Apart from the distinctive Eames style, they pioneered a variety of new materials and emerging technologies. For instance, they launched plywood and plastic into the mainstream design orbit.

Wartime need for innovation and experimentation played right into their hands.

Pushing the Boundaries of Design

Eames partners were looking for sturdy solutions versatile enough to take different shapes and forms.

Their design was a sublime amalgam of functional, affordable, and striking. Sculptural objects and furnishings represented the hallmarks of this new visual language. They resembled the coveted Bauhaus aesthetics, but with a playful twist and a mass appeal.

Soon, major contractors took notice and supercharged their career.

For instance, Eames duo produced lightweight molded plywood leg splints for the U.S. Navy. Access to military technology enabled them to take plywood design to new heights.

It was also the inception of biomorphic and fluid forms synonymous with later stages of their careers.  This is when Ray and Charles focused on applying the novelty tech to domestic furniture design.

The first in the line of products was a simple plywood chair.

Called the Eames Lounge Chair Wood, it had both the seat and back support slightly curved. This was no gimmick, but ergonomically-sound solution designed for optimal comfort.

Eames spouses wasted no time expanding the palette to include dining tables, chairs, and storage. Over time, they also embraced other innovative materials. 

Molded fiberglass is a prime example. It was used for a series of shell chairs, collapsible sofas, and lounge chairs, etc. These products were quickly gaining ground both in the commercial and residential landscape.

Revolution Starts at (Eames) Home

In the post-war era, a seismic market shift took place— the housing demand surged.

To overcome supply shortage, Eames design powerhouse put emphasis on the interior architecture. They encouraged young architects to work on prototype (case study) homes.

Due to shortages in the market, Ray and Charles used standard industrial materials themselves. At the same time, they shook things up quite a lot in the interior. They ditched traditional, fixed plan in favor of a flexible layout. 

This is to say that rooms suddenly became multi-purpose and adaptable units. Their own new home, The Eames House, ushered in a new era in modern architecture.

On the surface, it was a sleek, glass-and-steel construction. Huge windows acted as design hallmarks inviting the great outdoors inside. The interior realm was filled with their Eames furniture and staple elements.

Countless people would go on to replicate this paragon of modern design. And with the global expansion of American culture, their style started making waves across the globe.  

Many of their most popular items are still produced today. If you suspect you possess a piece, there’s a way to be sure. Check for Eames label, which was used across the rich product palette.

It’s a reliable method for authenticating and evaluating Eames design.

Eames Style for the Ages

Ray and Charles dared to be fresh and different.

They broke the rules to write their own. Their signature style is world-acclaimed: fit for purpose and irresistibly beautiful. In other words, it was a perfect amalgam of form and function.

With visionary concepts, they have stayed abreast of social, cultural, and economic changes. Together with government and big business, they modernized postwar America.  

For customers, their products were something straight out of design heaven. As for designers, including contemporary ones, Eames style remains their coveted benchmark.

Check out our online marketplace if you want a piece of design history too.