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Charles Eames was an American designer, architect and film maker. In creative partnership with his spouse Ray Kaiser Eames he was responsible for groundbreaking contributions in the field of architecture, furniture design, industrial design, manufacturing and the photographic arts.

Charles Eames
Charles Ormond Eames Jr.

(1907-06-17)June 17, 1907
DiedAugust 21, 1978(1978-08-21) (aged 71)
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis
OccupationArchitect (unlicensed), Designer, Film Maker
Years active1930–1978
Known forPartnership with wife Ray Eames and the collective work of The Eames Office
Notable work
Eames House
ChildrenLucia Jenkins



Charles was born in St. Louis to Charles Sr., a railway security officer, and Marie Adele Celine Eames on 17 June 17, 1907. He had one elder sibling, a sister called Adele. Charles attended Yeatman high school and developed an interest for architecture.


Charles studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on an architecture scholarship. After two years of study, he left the university. Many sources claim that he was dismissed for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern architects. The university reportedly dropped him because of his "too modern" views.[1] Other sources, less frequently cited, note that while a student, Charles Eames also was employed as an architect at the firm of Trueblood and Graf.[2][unreliable source?] The demands on his time from this employment and from his classes led to sleep-deprivation and diminished performance at the university.

While at Washington University, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, whom he married in 1929. A year later, they had a daughter, Lucia Jenkins.

Architectural practiceEdit

In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley.

Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend). At the elder Saarinen's invitation, Charles moved in 1938 with his wife Catherine and daughter Lucia to Michigan, to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a teacher and head of the industrial design department. In order to apply for the Architecture and Urban Planning Program, Eames defined an area of focus—the St. Louis waterfront. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition.[3] Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding (originally developed by Alvar Aalto), that Eames would further develop in many moulded plywood products, including chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the US Navy during World War II.[4]

Ray KaiserEdit

In 1941, Charles and Catherine divorced, and he married his Cranbrook colleague Bernice ("Ray") Kaiser, who was born in Sacramento, California. He then moved with her to Los Angeles, California, where they worked and lived until their deaths.

The Eames OfficeEdit

From 1943 until his death Charles and Ray worked together with a team of staff and produced an unparalleled breadth of creative design work across many disciplines.

Full article: The Eames Office


Charles Eames died of a heart attack on August 21, 1978, while on a consulting trip in his native Saint Louis, and was buried in the Calvary Cemetery there. He now has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[5]


In 1970 and 1971, Charles Eames gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. At the lectures, the Eames viewpoint and philosophy are related through Charles' own telling of what he called "the banana leaf parable", a banana leaf being the most basic eating utensil in southern India. He related the progression of design and its process where the banana leaf is transformed into something fantastically ornate. He explains the next step and ties it to the design process by finishing the parable with:

But you can go beyond that and the guys that have not only means, but a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, go the next step and they eat off of a banana leaf. And I think that in these times when we fall back and regroup, that somehow or other, the banana leaf parable sort of got to get working there, because I'm not prepared to say that the banana leaf that one eats off of is the same as the other eats off of, but it's that process that has happened within the man that changes the banana leaf. And as we attack these problems—and I hope and I expect that the total amount of energy used in this world is going to go from high to medium to a little bit lower—the banana leaf idea might have a great part in it.[6]

— Charles Eames


  1. ^ "Charles Eames". SmartFurniture Herman Miller Designers. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Charles Ormond Eames: Architect Biography". Famous Architects. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  3. ^ Eliot F. Noyes. Organic Design in Home Furnishings. Museum of Modern Art. 1941.
  4. ^ Alexandra Griffith Winton. Charles Eames (1907–78) and Ray Eames (1912–88) Archived 23 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed 12 December 2007.
  5. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Archived from the original on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  6. ^ Charles Eames. Excerpt from Norton Lecture #1 by Charles Eames Archived 10 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Eames Office resources. Accessed 11 December 2007.