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Happy Birthday, Charles Eames! 8 iconic Designs that show his (and Rays) versatility!

Design icon Charles Eames was born 116 years ago today. Together with his wife Ray Eames, Charles would profoundly shape postwar design, in America and around the world. Here are eight signature designs that show how versatile and unique their work was - and still is!

Charles Eames
“Take your pleasure seriously.”

1: Eames Lounge Chair

This classic is what the Eames are known for, a modern take on the 19th century club chair. But did you know the prototype was designed in the early 1950s for filmmaker Billy Wilder, a friend of the Eames? The plywood bending technique was perfected together with Eero Saarinen, another close friend of Charles Eames. It is one of the most copied chairs in design. ©Vitra

2: Hang it All Coat Rack for Vitra

“Ray can do everything I can – only better,” Charles once said of his lifelong collaborator. Originally a painter, Ray brought a playfulness and visual style to the Eames’ designs. This coatrack shows off its colors well, and is a modern classic. ©Vitra

3: Molded Plywood Splint to save WWII soldiers

Speaking of design, Charles said “We don’t make things look nice, we solve problems.” Here is the perfect example of that. In the middle of World War II, metal splints for broken legs were injuring the very patients they were supposed to heal. The Eames used their newly invented plywood bending device made of spare bicycle parts (they called it the Kazam! Machine) to create wooden splints that saved countless lives. ©Eames Office

4: Eames House

Charles cooperated again with Eero Saarinen to design this house in 1949. It is also known as Case Study House #8, because it started as a design challenge by John Entenza, editor of the important magazine Arts & Architecture. The brief: design a low-cost, pre-fabricated house for any client choice. Charles and Ray chose to build themselves a house, where they both lived for the rest of their lives. It only took 90 hours to build on site, and was influenced by the De Stijl movement in Europe. ©Eames Office

5: Graphic Designs

Ray Eames began her career working with oil paints, and her sense of color is legendary. Charles started his career as an architect, and together they also created visual materials for clients like IBM and Hermann Miller – but also for Griffith Park Railroad, a children’s miniature play area in Los Angeles. ©Eames Office

6: Classic trays for Vitra

The best design is the one that brings joy to daily life. Inspired by drawings from the Eames, these trays are as beautiful as they are practical. Perfect for bringing a loved one breakfast in bed! ©Vitra

7: Powers of Ten Film

Starting with a picnic on Lake Michigan, this short film scales back to encompass the entire galaxy, then zooms in to show individual molecules in the human body. Viewed 40 years later, it has a very Star Trekky feel. Fun fact: the narration was done by physicist Philip Morrison, who was involved in the Manhattan Project. Watch it here!

8: Mathematica Exhibition for IBM

For an exhibition in 1961, the Eames were charged by IBM with task of showing how fun math and science can be. If you have ever been to a trade fair, you know how important interaction is. Picture 500 lightbulbs doing multiplication, or 30,000 plastic balls forming the shape of a bell curve? No wonder that it became the longest running corporate-sponsored exhibition ever until it finally closed in 1998. ©Ryan Somma, Flickr