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The Story of Eames Furniture.

“I’m a little taken aback by anyone calling himself an artist because of my feeling that that’s the kind of designation that other people should give. You can be an artist in any field, but getting a degree to call yourself an artist would be like getting a diploma to call yourself a genius. If your work is good enough, it can be art, but art isn’t a product. It’s a quality. Sometimes that’s lost sight of. Quality can be in anything.”
—Charles Eames

Story of Eames

Story of Eames

Story of Eames

I don’t use the phrase “must-have” often, but really, this boxed set of books comes pretty close to being just that.

The Story of Eames Furniture came out a few months ago, and Evan gave it to me as a birthday gift (he is an excellent present-giver!). It was researched, compiled, written, and designed over the course of fifteen years (!) by Marilyn Neuhart with help from her husband, John Neuhart, who worked in the Eames Office primarily as a graphic designer. If Marilyn’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen the wonderful dolls she created for Alexander Girard’s Textiles & Objects Shop in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

This creation of this set of books (divided into “The Early Years” and “The Herman Miller Age”) was clearly a labor of love for Neuhart, and the result is an exhaustive compendium all things Eames. Aside from cataloging just about every variation on every piece of furniture, she also details the design process for many, including schematic drawings and plans and prototypes. There are biographies of all of the key players within the Eames Office, as well as a true-to-scale model of the office itself, created by her husband. It’s a content-rich set of books, to be sure! Page after page after page of wonderful stuff, all of it contained in a perfectly-designed package. Every evening I want to sit down with it.

The books are huge, by the way. I should have put a quarter (or a Chihuahua) next to them so you could get an idea of the scale.

Story of Eames

Take a few minutes to watch this video of Marilyn and John Neuhart talking about the book and how it came to be. Really, it’s lovely. Even putting aside the subject matter, listening to this couple speak with passion and excitement (about Charles Eames and about each other) is just so inspiring. I particularly take to heart John’s comments about his wife’s attention to detail with the layout of the book: Her use of type and the textural way in which she used photographs as an extension of the text. These are people doing exactly what they want to do. (And again, to quote Charles Eames: “It makes me feel guilty that anybody should have such a good time doing what they are supposed to do.”)

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38 Comments

  • Reply Kate [Union Jack Creative] December 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Oh my goodness, do want!

  • Reply Jorge December 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Great post Anna! What’s that Eames pattern behind the heater? Are you planning on wallpapering the other walls of the office?

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm

      How funny, I didn’t even realize that was back there! It’s the box that the Walnut Hang-It-All came in.

      (And no, I’m not doing any more wallpapering in the office. Just the one wall! It’s done.)

  • Reply lindsay December 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Your husband IS an excellent gift giver. I was thinking that when you tweeted about your earrings. This just might be an excellent gift for my mother-in-law.

  • Reply Rebekah December 7, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Dam, this rubbing salt in the wound. I *just* got back from Goodwill where I always am hoping to find that holy grail of thrifting, a shell chair. I checked furniture, then housewares, then furniture again, just in time to see the brother of a local antique dealer walking off with one- with a $4 price tag. DAMIT! I did get some vintage mini clipboards, but really, c’mon, why was my karma so off?!?!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      FOUR DOLLARS?!?!?! Wow. I’ve had some very good luck buy shell chairs for cheap, but that takes the cake. Sorry you missed it!

      • Reply Lori December 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

        I usually never run across any great deals, but my husband REALLY lucked out last year. He was making an service call at a local manufacturing company and they had an Eames arm shell chair in amazing condition in the office. He was telling the owner about our love of those chairs and they guy said it had been there since the place opened over 50 years ago and my husband could have it as long as he provided a replacement, so he quickly went to a nearby junk store and paid $8 for a random chair and switched it with the Eames. I keep meaning to date it by the patent numbers on the bottom to see how old it really is.

  • Reply Sue December 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Go Evan, awesome gift…..and the earrings too, seriously wanting a pair. Those books are like art themselves, I love the way the spines look when stacked together. Gonna have to go check them out! You’re a lucky girl Anna!

  • Reply Patricia Ann December 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I think it’s fitting that this book came out just in time when everyone and their mother seem to be drooling over mid-century furniture such as the ones that came from Eames himself, more so because of hype from numerous re-posts on Tumblr or FFFFound rather than trying to understand why his designs are indeed timeless.

    I like the quote you put up about being an artist, most especially the part about art. The constant debate as to what’s considered ‘art’ and what is simply kitsch is never ending considering that most tend to have a dictionary definition to assess what is art and what isn’t. I think Eames is right that to define ‘art’ you have to assess it for it’s craft and quality.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Patricia Ann December 7, 2010 at 7:10 pm

      P.S. Apart from loving your blog for all the upgrades you do to your house (with little to no expert help), I love that your blog is engaging and incites conversation without all the rudeness that often comes attached with having a comment box.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm

      I completely understand what you’re saying, but at the same time, I think it’s important to not invalidate the response of any individual to a a piece of art or design. I don’t think we need to have a special education in order appreciate something beautiful, you know?

  • Reply Matt December 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    It’s quite engrossing, no? I was stunned by all the research that had been put into it. And the content! First couple chapters knocked me out… I really had to let it digest before picking it up a few weeks later.

  • Reply Dan December 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    OH. MY. GOD. I’m actually kind of ashamed that I didn’t know this existed, and yes, it must be mine in the very near future. It always kind of astounds me how little information there is on the web or in print about the Eameses, or a resource that organizes and compiles their work in a neat and compelling way (the Eames Office website does a decent job and has some good info, but not enough!). I mean, these are some very, VERY important people not just to design, but 20th century American history in general. Oh dear, I just can’t wait to get my hands on it, THANK YOU for the recommendation!

    If you haven’t done it already, Arts and Architecture Magazine has PDFs of all the original Case Study House Program articles available online, which are so much fun. The original concept for CSH#8 (published in ’45, I believe) is TOTALLY different than what they actually built in 1949. Also, I just love this picture of them with the editor of A&AM before they broke ground (and before he and charles had a falling out). Ray is the coolest!
    http://tinyurl.com/36o9zwf

    OH. And one more thing. The DWR store in Meatpacking has one of the original plywood leg splints on display, just for funsies. Cool to see it in person if you’re in the neighborhood!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 7, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      Oh, I know—it’s like the Eames Office folks were really revved up for about 2 months, and then they just kind of let everything drop as far as the website goes. (By the way, the LOC has a nice collection of stuff, in case you haven’t seen it.) I’ll check out the A&AM docs tomorrow!!

      p.s. You NEED this set of books!!

  • Reply Lauren December 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Ooh…I think this might be Kyle’s Christmas present. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply chrispito December 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    uh huh. i have seriously been thinking about forgetting about getting my BFA. i have less than a year worth of classes left to go. i just want to get out there are WORK. this post was a good influence. thank you for this post (and to mr eames too).

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm

      Less than a year left?! You need to finish!!

      I have a BFA, and for real, it’s not worthless. I know it seem like it might be, but you need to finish. Work ain’t all that, anyway!!

      • Reply chrispito December 8, 2010 at 1:29 pm

        i know…i’ve just been living on credit for so long it’s making me feel insane. i actually thought about this some more and know i need to finish. 1 more year! aaargh!

  • Reply Jen December 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    We have an Eames splint up on our wall — a friend of the family knew we like all sorts of random objects and gave it to us when her Medical school was cleaning out their basement. She had no idea what it was, but my boyfriend recognized it. I love that it’s still got writing on it that you can read: names of soldiers and their heights in pencil.

  • Reply lisa December 7, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    http://www.genesis-publications.com/
    nice books here too! i could go broke!

  • Reply Jordana @ White Cabana December 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Oh my – I would LOVE these books! (I know I’m not alone with this wish.)
    -Jordana

  • Reply ehalvey December 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    “the textural way in which she used photographs as an extension of the text”

    I love that statement! So many publishers/writers don’t use images as an extension. They either focus solely on the image with little text or context, or the image gets lost in the text. Maybe it’s my nerdiness coming out, but ever since I wrote a paper on the function of text and image in the Book of Kells, I tend to notice it more.

  • Reply Helen December 8, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Oh, what an amazing gift, wow what a set of books.

  • Reply Tatyana December 8, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Oh, I wish this came out last year. Last spring I did a presentation on the work of Ray and Charles Eames and it was SO hard to put all the information together. There is hardly any information on their house… and there are no current photos of the interiors nor are people allowed to go inside (unless they pay for a membership – $500/year). I became literally obsessed with them and I framed a photocopy of the cute love note Charles wrote to Ray to ask her to marry him while he was in the hospital being treated for an ulcer (he drew a hand and pointed to the ring finger with an arrow, asking what size it was).
    Have you seen the collection of their films ‘The Films of Charles & Ray Eames’? What an amazing duo with such great brains (trying not to say “creative”)!
    http://www.amazon.com/Films-Charles-Ray-Eames/dp/B0009S2K92/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1291796348&sr=8-3

  • Reply teresa December 8, 2010 at 6:27 am

    The quote alone made it worth my while to check the site today! Thanks!
    I work in the arts and have never assigned the title of artist to myself. Artisan, perhaps. Craftsman, perhaps. But “artist” would be overstating it a bit.

    These books look fantastic! What a great present! I hope you get much enjoyment from them. I hope they are the kind of book that can cheer you up if you feel gloomy or can provide inspiration if you feel a little tapped out. I have a few books like that.

    Happy belated birthday!

  • Reply Lauren December 8, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I never knew this book existed – thanks for letting me know! Love a bit (or a lot) of Eames. Huummm might ask Santa for this one, if I’ve been good this year!

  • Reply Kellee December 8, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Wow. Great post, and the book looks gorgeous. Ooh, Sunday afternoon, sitting on a rug on the floor with some good coffee and that boy would be perfect.

    The layout reminds of the Le Corbusier book I’ve been coveting for a couple of years. It fear it would consume one whole room of my tiny flat so I haven’t yet purchased it, but it’s on the Dream List.

    I like how you didn’t notice your Hang-It-All box in the background too 🙂

  • Reply Jessica December 8, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for posting this beautiful and inspiring video. I recently acquired a lovely Eames rocker and it might just be my favorite thing in the whole house (besides my husband and cat).

    One thing that really set the tone for the video was the music – any ideas on who is playing in the background? I’m in love with the soft, sort of inward and thoughtful piano sounds.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 December 8, 2010 at 10:47 am

      Sorry, I don’t know! Gestalten (the publisher) doesn’t seem to have included a credit for the music anywhere. Perhaps you could try emailing them—I imagine they’re very responsive. 🙂

  • Reply kate so December 8, 2010 at 10:27 am

    The video made my morning.

  • Reply Maria December 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    awesome. thanks for sharing. so inspiring.

  • Reply Mandy December 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Think this might have to go on my Christmas wish list …. looks wonderful.
    I finally got my walnut Eames hang it all last week …. a bit of a wait to get it to Australia but so worth the wait I love ….. my first real Earmes , I love it !!!!

  • Reply rebecca December 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    this is a fantastic little film, thank you for posting/sharing…I finally own some Eames furniture…can’t wait to increase the collection and add these books to the list.

  • Reply raina December 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

    I saw the book the other day- incredible!! Cheers for Evan!

  • Reply Daniel Ostroff December 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    http://www.stylepark.com/en/news/credit-where-credits-due/313793

    An honest review of this book.

  • Reply Bailey Eames December 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    EAMES that does sound like a very nice name for your child. In retro respect to one of the leaders in this countries greatest minds when it came to common sense. CHARLES EAMES and his wife RAY earned this place in history. RAY for her ART aspects and CHARLES for his creations. Of about 2400 EAMES in the United States, I am proud to be one of them. Bailey Newman EAMES

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