Born a few months shy of the Baby Boom, my childhood coincided with the period known to vintage sellers and collectors as the Eames era. Active from the 1940s through the ’70s, Charles and Ray Eames‘ iconic designs are synonymous with the mid-century modern period. Innovative furniture, films, toys, fabrics, exhibitions, and World’s Fair pavilions poured from their California office.
The Eames’ designs appealed to people like my parents, who were young, socially aware and determined to make the world a better place to live after the trauma of World War II. We lived in Michigan, home to Cranbrook Academy (where Charles and Ray met) and Herman Miller, the company that produced so many of the Eames’ designs.
[Clockwise from top: Eames medium house of cards from 52girls; Child’s school chair from everyeskimo; Vintage chemex coffee pot from Voladora Vintage; Vintage Austrian 1960s brass cat figurine from AustriaBrass; Vintage salt and pepper shakers from Vintage Adventures; Original Charles and Ray Eames chair from b modern]
My family did not have any Eames furniture, but we all loved the House of Cards. We did have similar chairs in the kitchen and many other modern items for daily use.
[Clockwise from top left: Wood cut St. Francis from studiobeerhorst; 19th century hand-carved figural man from Curious Goods Trader; China cow creamer from Things of the Heart; Abstract modernist ring from mascara jones; Mid-century wooden monkeys from lily & ruby; Nymolle Hoyrup cup and saucer from Mid Century Mama’s]
Like the Eames’, my mother had an eye for folk art and whimsy but never, ever kitsch. She bought prints and paintings by local artists and gave me a handmade ring she found for sale at Cranbrook Academy.
[Clockwise from top: Dave Brubeck Newport 1958vinyl LP from ShadyDaze; Vintage holiday stockings from Vintage Point; Bernard Buffet album design from new documents; My Fair Lady 1956 Chicago program from myparentsattick]
My parents listened to jazz and musicals. They took me to a traveling production of My Fair Lady and I wore stockings and a garter belt for the very first time (what misery!). Later, while my friends were listening to rock and roll, I was playing Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald over and over.
[Clockwise from top left: Vintage 1950s copper shirtwaist dress from gogovintage; Vintage book The Color of Kittens from Tinsel and Trinkets; Vintage 1960s typewriter from NTNTIQUES; Vintage Betsy McCall doll apron from anne8865; Vintage ivory cotton gloves from amanda’s vintage]
My family was definitely part of the times. My mother and I both wore shirtwaist dresses and white gloves for special occasions. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and my grandmother taught me to sew so I could make clothes for my beloved Betsy McCall doll.
[Clockwise from top left: JFK campaign button from Bullseye Collectibles and Antiques; Vintage New York World’s Fair frosted glasses from Flanders Mercantile; September 6, 1963 issue of Life magazine from ClosetFull; Vintage Democrat volunteer pins from The Corner Store BK]
In 1960 my family moved to Washington, D.C. and I spent the summer as a volunteer at the Women’s Committee of the (all male) Democratic National Committee. Times were changing, and in 1963 I went to the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. By 1964, I was usually thinking of myself as a woman, but I had one last burst of my Eames era girlhood at the New York World’s Fair. I was dazzled by the presentation of “Think” at the IBM pavilion, designed by the Eames’ and Eero Saarinen and Associates.
It was only a few years ago when I realized just how deeply and early the Eames’ influenced my creative life. They did not confine their curiousity and design to just one aspect of the world. They were interested in science and folk art, computers and comfortable chairs. Those interests gave a warmth and character to their aesthetic era, which continues to inspire and fascinate today.