As far as 20th century power couples are concerned, Charles and Ray Eames earn the top spot.
As a team, they introduced some of the most iconic and lasting furniture of the past 100 years (looking at you, Eames Lounge & Ottoman), and contributed significantly to the culture of modern design with their playfulness and creativity. Their curiosity and talent, from the films they produced to their pioneering architecture, knew no bounds. And while their design legacy truly surrounds us today, there’s still plenty you may not know. So, without further ado, here are 10 lesser-known facts about the pair.
1. They designed our national aquarium, but it never got built.
In the 1960s they laid out plans for the large-scale project to be built in Washington DC. However, due to budget cuts, the plan was scrapped.
2. Charles never finished architecture school.
He dropped out of the Washington University program after only two years. And while he never got his architect's license, that didn't stop the two of them from amassing quite the portfolio of homes.
3. They wrote The India Report, which helped shape the future of modern design.
In 1958, at the request of the Indian Government, they prepared a lengthy report on best-practices in regard to how the country should proceed to jumpstart its design industry. It helped grow the design industry across the world, highlighting the benefits of investing and promoting design schools.
4. They were best friends with a superstar director.
The director Billy Wilder (above, far left), who made classics like The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, was the inspiration for the first Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Wilder often assembled a narrow makeshift lounger on set to snooze in-between takes, so Ray and Charles took it upon themselves to create something sexier and more permanent. Wilder trusted them to lend a hand on his projects, too; Ray helped design typography for opening credits and Charles would step in to shoot actual scenes. They grew so close that he even invited the couple to accompany he and his new wife on their honeymoon.
6. They made an entire film on the proper application of clown makeup.
They were both enamored with clown culture, and admired it as an artistic discipline. In 1971, they immortalized their obsession in a video tutorial on clown training and face painting that was shown to new students at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.
7. They declined the opportunity to redesign Budweiser’s logo.
Just because they didn't think it needed a redesign. The duo was notoriously opposed to the notion of redesigning for the sake of redesigning, which has become a mantra for many subsequent designers.
8. They designed a house for Herman Miller’s chairman.
While they are best known for the pieces they designed for forward-thinking modern furniture company Herman Miller, they also designed an entire house for the chairman of the company. He was so impressed with a model home design he’d seen in their LA office that he asked them to build it for him in Michigan.
Several of their short films, including Glimpses of the USA, a propaganda piece commissioned by the US government to be screened in Moscow, and House of Science (which premiered at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle) featured unique simultaneous projection methods and multiple screens. Specifically, the latter was projected onto a curved oval screen, a precursor to those enormous curved canvases we pony up north of $20 to sit in front of today.
10. Their best-selling chair is not what you think it is.
The Eames Lounge and Ottoman may be their most iconic piece, but the Tandem Sling Seating they initially developed for O’Hare International in '62 is the best-selling airport seating in the world, hoisting the backsides of millions of travelers every day around the world.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. One day, he will own his very own (and authentic) Eames Lounge. One day....