Two Volume Set, The Story of Eames Furniture

This is my favorite design book from 2010. Yes, it’s huge! That’s a twelve inch ruler in the photo. It runs to 800 gloriously printed pages containing over 2,500 images, with a sturdy box to protect the volumes. Congratulations to Gestalten for such a superb production! And yes, it’s expensive, with a list price of $199 (and $125 even on Amazon). The first volume is called The Early Years and the second The Herman Miller Age. You can feast your eyes on images of every detail, photos of process, pattern drawings and portraits of the people involved. The quality and quantity of records is extraordinary.

I expect that you already have Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams on your bookshelf, released by Gestalten at the beginning of the year. These two together offer us such rich insights, with Dieter Rams revealing the roots and practice of European Modernism in industrial design, and The Story of Eames Furniture explaining how so many innovative advances in the uses of materials in furniture design were achieved by the Eames office in the USA.

Some of the People Interviewed by Marilyn Neuhart

Marilyn Neuhart is the wordsmith of these volumes, telling her story in a very readable and unpretentious style. One of the delightful surprises is the opportunity to meet so many interesting individuals. The first 250 pages are devoted to biographies of twenty-two people who were important collaborators and members of the Eames office, dubbed The Eames Repertory Company, ranging from Eero Saarinen to Deborah Sussman. Another surprise, somewhat shocking to any Eames fan, is the resentment that Marilyn feels towards Charles and particularly Ray. In the introduction she says, “This is a warts-and-all story. When you begin to look deeply and honestly into any one thing or person you are likely, more often than not, to find some things that are uncomfortable and pose difficult problems in the retelling.” If you want to learn more about those difficulties, you will find them in the text, but you will also find so much material that is a joy to discover.

Ray and Charles Eames

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