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The Story of Eames

Even before the Mad Men-induced resurgence of Gimlets and Sidecars, of snug-fitting ‘wiggle’ dresses and modern-era typography, people have loved, collected, enthused over and most importantly sat in Charles Eames’ furniture for the last 60 years. You can find it in nearly every scene of the show, but you can also find it in plenty of homes across the world, and not just as that expensive chair mom won’t let you use, but as practical, functional items of daily use. Eames himself said, “If it isn’t functional, it isn’t beautiful.”

Today, we know a lot about his legacy, but what of the man himself? Beyond his designs, who was he and what was he like to work with? Those questions, it turns out, don’t have easy answers. They take up all of Marilyn Neuhart’s 800-page tome, The Story of Eames Furniture. Marilyn, who worked in Eames’ studio as a designer (she’s best known for her adorable dolls) along with her husband John, spent thirteen years researching her old boss and reminiscing over his often strange managerial habits. For example, if he hired a furniture designer, he wouldn’t let them go anywhere near the drafting tables until they put in their time in the darkroom. Some passed the test, others didn’t. It was Eames’ way of developing a group of multi-talented designers for his multi-faceted operation.

The Neuhart’s reveal some more of his quirks in this interview, but to get the full story, you have to read the book. If 800 pages of text seems daunting, fear not. It also includes more than 2,500 pictures split into two separate books.