December 27, 2011
I recently had the good fortune to visit the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, California. As a young designer influenced by the Eameses, the visit left me with a new perspective. While Charles and Ray were legendary designers, they were also husband and wife, grandparents, and friends, who spent years turning the house into a comforting, familiar place. It is the Eames home more than it is the Eames House.
While the home has been preserved, nothing has been restored. It is just as Charles and Ray intended. It feels warm, inviting and has the patina of use: the paint is chipped, the dinner bell is rusty, and the leather on the lounge chair and ottoman is cracked from sitting. Their collections are on display everywhere. It couldn’t feel more different than the sleek, museum-like interiors that we see their furniture featured in today.
Throughout, there are examples of Eames design–but not the ones you and I know. A patio table built from the base of their famous ottoman sits outside, probably a little rustier than when they used it; a walnut stool became a Lazy Susan holding a TV; and a plant is perched on top of an extra, extra tall modified table base. They simply used what they had to make what they needed.
Outside, old trucks and other toys litter the yard and in the corner are remains of a wooden fort built for the grandchildren.
Visiting the home of Charles and Ray Eames and glimpsing into their life together transformed two design icons into people, who, in many ways, were just like you and me.
November 14, 2011
Asked to design lobbies for the newly completed Time & Life Building in Manhattan, Charles and Ray Eames created what would become two classic designs.
Intended to be waiting areas during the day and staff lounges after hours, the lobbies needed a comfortable chair, but one with a smaller footprint than the iconic Eames lounge. The Eameses conceived a new design composed of a bent plywood core covered in foam and thick, black leather. The arms, seat, and back were joined with polished aluminum frames. The result exuded executive appeal and became the centerpiece of each lobby.
The Time-Life lobbies also provided the impetus for a series of stools designed by Ray. Turned from solid walnut, the upper and lower sections of each stool were identical, with a unique center section. Many profiles were explored before Ray settled on three she liked. The stools served dual uses as low tables and seats.
These two designs were so intertwined with the project that inspired them that even today they are referred to as the Time-Life chair and Time-Life stool. Both of these classics are still available today.
November 10, 2011
Designed as a device for hanging things, the Eames Hang-It-All is an example of an object that appears simple but upon closer look reveals playful originality.
The design—short rods on a wire frame, each capped with a wooden ball— leveraged the Eameses’ understanding of resistance-welding, a mass-production technique of simultaneous welding wire. It was a technique they used in other designs such as the wire chair and wire-base table. By designing with the manufacturing process in mind, the Hang-It-All was easy to produce and affordably priced.
Wanting to make it a place for a child’s belongings, Charles and Ray chose white for the frame and painted each ball a bright color—red, yellow, pink, blue, magenta, ocher, green, and violet. They imagined it the prefect place for a jacket, mittens, scarves, as well as doll clothes, or a slingshot.
Originally distributed by Tigrett by direct mail, production ended in 1961. Herman Miller obtained permission from the Eames Office and began making the Hang-It-All again in 1993, and in 2010 released a limited-edition version with a black frame and walnut balls.
Design, What's Up
October 27, 2011
The Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Photo: Eliel Saarinen
Sunny California is often considered the center of modern design and architecture, but could the heart of mid-century modernity be found along the shores of Michigan?
Alexander Girard, Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Gilbert Rohde—all pioneers of mid-century design and beloved by Herman Miller—lived, learned, and worked in the state. They are only the tip of the designer iceberg. Noteworthy architects who left structural legacies on Michigan soil including Frank Lloyd Wright and Eero and Eliel Saarinen.
Why Michigan? Many reasons, and certainly it was West Michigan’s furniture industry, the opportunity to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, exhibits hosted by the Detroit Institute of Art in the heart of the Motor City, and the numerous patrons who supported a new vision for the world.
To learn more, visit Michigan Modern, a project working to raise awareness of the state’s design legacy and share examples of the state’s ongoing leadership in modern design.
Design, What's Up
October 20, 2011
Where do you begin celebrating 45 years of California art and design? With 60 museums and 70 galleries, to be exact. Pacific Standard Time, believed to be the largest museum collaboration ever, will be showcasing works by California-based artists and designers from now until January.
From the works of Charles and Ray Eames in the 1940’s to the hardcore punk scene of the 1980’s, California’s artistic influence is on display. Check it out and see why LA can go toe-to-toe with NYC when it come comes to art.
Check out Lifeworks for peek at a few Eames and Herman Miller related exhibits.
Design, What's Up
September 22, 2011
Dared to create art on art, local Austin artists and designers turned the smooth, white surface of an Eames molded plastic chair into the medium for their expression. Some turned to Mondrian for inspiration and others to a hammer and nails. The Good Design Challenge was held in conjunction with a recent Herman Miller exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art.
This isn’t the first time an Eames chair has become a canvas.
June 8, 2011
In 1951, while on tour of the Eames office, well-known New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg picked up a brush and painted a reclining woman on an Eames fiberglass arm chair—turning chair into art and beginning a long history of artists using the designs of Charles and Ray as canvases for self-expression.
While for many of us—myself included—the thought of a smudge, much less a deliberate brush stroke, on one of our precious pieces of furniture makes us cringe. But not the Eameses, who treasured Saul’s chair, and displayed it proudly.
Surely they would be delighted to see that artists today continue to find inspiration in their work and use their designs as a canvas for expressing their own artistic visions.
Check out Operation Design for pictures from Eames Inspiration, a charity event Herman Miller co-sponsered last year.
Design, What's Up
May 25, 2011
Charles Eames famously said it’s the details that make the product. In this case, it was the Herman Miller booth at ICFF. It was an ingenious homage to the J. Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana.
Booth designers Craig Bassam and Scott Fellows added two “walls” to suggest structure. Covering the booth with a fabric scrim supported by white beams softened the harsh lights of the exhibition hall while hinting at the home’s skylights. An interior wall of silk screened with bright, angular shapes abstracted the home’s storage wall. High-gloss flooring and a bed of live ground cover recalled the travertine floor and extended roof lines of the home.
In these areas, where the distinction between indoor and outdoor became blurred, Eames Aluminum Group chairs were on display. The Millers were among the first to embrace these chairs for their terraces. With new fabrics and finishes designed for the outdoors, the chairs have returned to their original intent and took an award for it. These were nestled around an Eames table with a new stone top, the effect striking and wonderfully textural.
May 16, 2011
We’ve been busy this weekend at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York City. This year’s booth was inspired by the Miller House and designed by BassamFellows (check out Lifework for more on these two very soon). It’s a clear and beautiful design statement that showcases our pieces perfectly, including the new Eames Aluminum Group Chairs (which won Best Outdoor Furniture category in the Editor’s Choice Awards).
Tomorrow the show opens to the public, so stop by for a visit, check out the booth, and tryout one of the new chairs. If you can’t make it, we’ve put together a slideshow for you. Enjoy!
Photos 1-5 via Paul Warchol Photography.
Design, What's Up
August 16, 2010
This year, Herman Miller’s Select program is offering a classic interpretation of the multicolored Eames Hang-It-All. Sophisticated touches to the already eye-catching design include a black steel frame and solid walnut hooks.
The Hang-It-All was inspired by the Eameses’ love for playful furniture and children’s toys. Introduced in 1953, it was designed to hold an assortment of children’s belongings—mittens, scarves, jackets, dolls, slingshots, skates, and knapsacks, according to Eames Design.
It was available from Tigrett Enterprises’ Playhouse Division until the company went out of business in 1961. Herman Miller reintroduced it in 1994.
Herman Miller’s Gregg Vander Kooi chose to feature the Hang-It-All as this year’s Select item because of its whimsical appeal.
“Plus,” he adds, “walnut is a fairly neutral wood that fits with almost any décor.”
The Select Hang-It-All carries a minimum advertised price of $249. It will be available from the company’s global network of dealerships and retailers.
Hurry! It’s only available until February 15, 2011, or while supplies last.