The Eames Influence: A New Film About The Sweethearts of American Design

A new film celebrates Charles and Ray Eames as the Paul and Linda of the American design world.

Collaborative husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames are considered by many to be America’s most important designers. He was an unlicensed architect. She was a painter who rarely painted. Together, they are perhaps best remembered for their mid-century plywood and fiberglass furniture. Most notably, the Eames Chair.

But if you were in the post-war design scene in Venice Beach, California, Charles and Ray were a progressive Ozzie and Harriet, a layman’s Buster and Eleanor Keaton; a post punk Syd and Nancy, only functional.

The Eames worked under the guiding principle that need was the primary condition for design. As such, they experimented with ways of creating affordable, high-quality furniture for average consumers. Multi-functional furniture especially, like compact storage units and collapsible sofas.

“What works is better than what looks good,” Ray once said. “The good looks can change, but what works, works.” The Eames Office at 901 Washington Blvd. was, for a time, one of the most creative office spaces on earth – the Apple, Google or Facebook of their time. There they created splints for wounded military during World War II, advances in photography, interiors, multi-media exhibits, graphics, games, films and toys.

A new film by Jason Cohn & Bill Jersey, however, narrated by James Franco, seeks to understand the couple from a more personal vantage. How did their personal lives and influence impact significant events in American life, like the development of modernism, to the rise of the computer age? The film relies on never-before-seen archival material, love letters, photographs and artifacts from their 40-plus years of working together to answer some of these questions.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter premieres in New York, L.A., and a handful of other cities on November 18. The DVD is also available for pre-order on Amazon.

Images: Vitra; Eames Office

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.