Mid-Century Modern Furniture Then and Now - Paradigm Gallery Blog

“What Works is Better Than What Looks Good” – Ray Kaiser Eames

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On November 21st

Eames House Photo Courtesy of Flickr User ercwttmn What Works is Better Than What Looks Good   Ray Kaiser Eames

This is the ninth of twelve Women Pioneers of Architecture and Design that we showcase in our eBook “A Man’s Profession No More,” available for free at https://www.pgmod.com/content/18-ebooks.

 “I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.” – Ray Eames

Ray Kaiser Eames was born in Sacramento, California in the mid 1920’s. She studied painting with Hans Hofmann in New York before moving on to Cranbrook Academy.

Ray had a great appreciation for the education she received from Hans, and felt that this was a key element in her understanding of relationships between color and structure.

She would one day go on to use this knowledge in her furniture design collaboration with Charles Eames. Ray was quoted as saying the following regarding her studies with Hans:

“He didn’t close anything, he opened everything and made it possible to see wholly, I think, as we do see. We don’t see a line, we see a line and both sides of the line…I don’t know anyone else who was as able to relate the experience of life to a canvas, to a format.” —Ray Eames

After her lessons with Hans, Ray went on to study at Cranbrook academy, where she met Charles Eames. She assisted Charles, along with Eero Saarinen, in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Furniture Competition.” These designs, created by molding plywood into complex curves, won them the two first prizes.

Ray went on to marry Charles Eames in 1941, and they moved to California. Here, they continued their furniture design work with molding plywood, and were commissioned by the Navy during the war to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.

In 1946, their molded plywood furniture began to be produced by Evans, which was soon taken over by Herman Miller, Inc. This company continues to produce Eames style furniture in the United States to this day.

In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own California home as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine. Their unique design and innovative use of materials made this house an example for architects and designers worldwide. It is considered one of the most important post-war residences built anywhere in the world.

Eames’ furniture creations, playful films, and beautiful steel-and-glass house were rhythmically colorful and gained worldwide fame. Ray Eames’ personal style and wardrobe was also something worthy of mention, however, it was a much more subtle attraction.

A Mans Profession No More. The Women Pioneers of Architecture and Design e1346341897201 What Works is Better Than What Looks Good   Ray Kaiser EamesOn most days, you would find Ray wearing starchy white blouses, trim square-necked jumpers, waist-cropped jackets and dirndl skirts. This style was often emulated by her contemporaries. She donned this look throughout her lifetime, regardless of the changing trends.

“What works is better than what looks good. The looks good can change, but what works, works.” -Ray Eames

In addition to Ray Eames, each of the women pioneers in our free eBook (which can be downloaded simply by clicking the icon to your right) were such inspirations to countless men and women who came after them.

If you’re a fan of Charles and Ray Eames’ furniture, you might like the RAR Rocking Chair which is a relatively simple design, affordable, and most importantly comfortable.

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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