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An Eames Era Girlhood

Sep 6, 2011

by Cate Fitt

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

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.

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111 comments

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes said 5 years ago

    Pretty stuff :) Love that man with the birds...

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    Love this! And all the vintage features!

  • EverMindVintage

    EverMindVintage said 5 years ago

    Always loved Eames!

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 5 years ago

    Fun history, thanks for sharing!

  • JBPacrat

    JBPacrat said 5 years ago

    Great perspective on the period. Loved reading it.

  • hattieshouse

    hattieshouse said 5 years ago

    a great collection of my favorite designers...thanks for sharing the goods!!!

  • tomokotahara

    tomokotahara said 5 years ago

    I love Eames, their designs are simple and sophisticated, the styles are excellent, perfect curve, comfy to use..their creative spirit is very inspiring.

  • mamif

    mamif said 5 years ago

    The Eames are eamazing!

  • BRIGHTANDBEAUTIFUL88

    BRIGHTANDBEAUTIFUL88 said 5 years ago

    D-lightful! Thanks for doing a piece on Charles and Ray Eames. I studied them in school (architecture, and furniture design), but fell in love with them way before that for their wonderful playful style. They always looked like they were having enormous fun while making terrific art. "Life without industry is sloth, and industry without art is brutality" D. Hunter (I think) So, thanks! Shell

  • junquegypsy

    junquegypsy said 5 years ago

    I like the Eames style, even have a garment bag from that era in my shop. But try as I might, I can not cut the clutter enough to be really Eames.

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Ooooo Cate - you speak my language. So nostalgic and inspirational. We had one of those coffee tables that looked like a surfboard and I would stand on it, pretending to surf, when no one was looking.

  • Ryanplz

    Ryanplz said 5 years ago

    quite nice. good to see the beerhorsts in this! nice selection.

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery said 5 years ago

    An interesting mix of vintage items!

  • GracefullyGirly

    GracefullyGirly said 5 years ago

    I love the Eames style! The simple lines are an "ahhhhhh," a sigh of relief from busy and complicated. It's no wonder the era lasted so long and has such far-reaching fans. Thanks for sharing your perspective and personal experience with it. I always wished I had been born early enough to really experience it first hand. I looked up to and envied my cousins, all a little older, who lived in the very middle of it. I longed to 'be' in the photos of their childhood. : >

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 5 years ago

    Great post! Love the vintage.

  • KKCollectibleCollage

    KKCollectibleCollage said 5 years ago

    Love Eames Era collectibles, I grew up then and nothing brings on the nostalgia more. Thanks for sharing!

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine said 5 years ago

    Great story....as a child I was always digging through my mother's accessories, she had so many pairs of gloves. They seemed so strange and glamorous because it was the 1970s, and woman didn't wear them anymore.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful post! Fab design.

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 5 years ago

    Anything Vintage Rocks! Love this read Monica TheIDConnection

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 5 years ago

    Great post; love the vintage items.

  • TheCottageCheese

    TheCottageCheese said 5 years ago

    Fabulous post! I love all things Eames, and highly recommend that any mid-century fans out there check out their entire film collection. The depth and breadth of the duo's work goes far beyond their iconic chairs.

  • carambas

    carambas said 5 years ago

    Delightful post. Thanks!

  • sonyarasi

    sonyarasi said 5 years ago

    Great story!

  • greeneyezdesignz

    greeneyezdesignz said 5 years ago

    I still have that old Underwood typewriter that my mother purchased for me when I was in high school. She used it to write 2 books about her life. Great article!

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique said 5 years ago

    What a great story! I enjoyed the read.

  • paulofnavarone

    paulofnavarone said 5 years ago

    nice

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Great post! Love the stuffs.

  • HoneysuckleLane

    HoneysuckleLane said 5 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry said 5 years ago

    Interesting article, Thanks!

  • SparklePaw

    SparklePaw said 5 years ago

    what a lucky gal to have those inspirations!

  • AdornmentsNYC

    AdornmentsNYC said 5 years ago

    cool post! Thanks for sharing!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Nice to hear about a snapshot of family life, I love the Eames style because its so simplistic and stylish with its elegant lines. Quite timeless really.

  • Littlezozo

    Littlezozo said 5 years ago

    I love the vintage items thanks for sharing

  • BingoBox

    BingoBox said 5 years ago

    Well done Cate - loved getting a window view of your life thru design & images.

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion said 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your memories of this favorite era!

  • stockannette

    stockannette said 5 years ago

    Love the Eames' and Miller and the whole vibe! Great job!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful blog! Loved going back in time!

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry said 5 years ago

    Loved the article, thanks

  • RareDesign

    RareDesign said 5 years ago

    Great article and finds

  • RareDesign

    RareDesign said 5 years ago

    Great article and finds!

  • Trenza

    Trenza said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article! I too love the house of cards!

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 5 years ago

    Love this post!! thank you so much for sharing :D

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 5 years ago

    love eames' work for herman miller. great article!

  • lindaketelhut

    lindaketelhut said 5 years ago

    You stole my mid century heart. Wonderful post!

  • midcentury

    midcentury said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the memories. I was teenager in the 1960s and have loved things from that era ever since. Similar to your experience, I was the only person knew who like "modern" things. Right now I eat off Russel Wright and Eva Zeisel dinnerware at a Heywood Wakefield Triple Wishbone table on a "stingray" chair. My cookbooks are nearby in a George Nelson bookcase. In my study is a Paul McCobb desk and cocktail table, and in the living room is a Jens Jensen chair. I plan to offer mid-century dinnerware and other items on my etsy store in near future :-)

  • scandivintage

    scandivintage said 5 years ago

    Love the happy style. Just perfect!

  • InYourBones

    InYourBones said 5 years ago

    cute

  • OsoVictoria

    OsoVictoria said 5 years ago

    An era I grew up in and learned to love over the years, because my first love was vintage, prior to the eames era. And, now it is all vintage.

  • SailThouForth

    SailThouForth said 5 years ago

    Lovely personal essay on the Eames and their influence. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • scottlindberg

    scottlindberg said 5 years ago

    Fantastic article! Charles & Ray have influenced our household quite a bit. In fact, I'm sitting in one of their desk chairs as I type this note. Great stuff!

  • silverridgestudio

    silverridgestudio said 5 years ago

    Great article Cate. I collect and live with a mix of mid-century & nature inspired items...LOVE all the mid-century architecture here in LA, especially in my neck of the woods Silverlake. Great to see a local store (Mascara Jones) amongst all the wonderful stores highlighted here.

  • fredandlulu

    fredandlulu said 5 years ago

    Lovely story... lovely era...

  • fcollectables

    fcollectables said 5 years ago

    love your article.. fantastic items.

  • silversamba

    silversamba said 5 years ago

    fab post! thanks :) alana

  • 2007musarra

    2007musarra said 5 years ago

    Amazing! What a great article and subject matter. Thanks so much for sharing

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux said 5 years ago

    COLOR KITTENS!! ...."and in all that brown, the sun went down..." One of our favorite kid's books. Highly recommended reading! Totally inspiring illustrations. Loved this post!

  • jacklom3

    jacklom3 said 5 years ago

    Fantastic article!!

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna said 5 years ago

    The Eames were such a vibrant duo, I love so much of the happiness and scope that they brought into what became the Mid-Century style. Great choices for this piece too!

  • Vintage2NewJewelry

    Vintage2NewJewelry said 5 years ago

    I grew up in that wonderful era too! Love your post! Brings back so many memories.........

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 5 years ago

    i love the mid century art mixed in with the furniture. amazing article!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 5 years ago

    Great read! Lucky gal you are to have lived so close to Cranbrook Academy. Years back, I was assigned the task of delivering several monumental Gerhardt Knodel to his studio in Flint following a KSU exhibition and detoured a bit to visit Cranbrook. Love at first sight. Wonderful examples of the Eames' and Saarinen' s work were on display and they provided tremendous inspiration for the wearable art pieces I was making then. The Color Kittens Golden Book was one of my favorites! Happy to see you feature it.

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 5 years ago

    oops...above should read 'Gerhardt Knodel tapestries'.

  • FancifulRelics

    FancifulRelics said 5 years ago

    This is great! What amazing style! Love Mid-Century, just don't make 'em like that anymore.

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 5 years ago

    Great read ! Thanks for your time :)

  • metalicious

    metalicious said 5 years ago

    Fantastic article about an inspirational and very influential couple! Thanks so much.

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 5 years ago

    The Eames Era. Yes, please!!

  • sandboxcastle

    sandboxcastle said 5 years ago

    I love the house of cards too! Great post :D

  • sarlesnatalya

    sarlesnatalya said 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing! loving it

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry said 5 years ago

    A wonderful heartfelt article! Thank you!

  • TandJsoaps

    TandJsoaps said 5 years ago

    Love all things Eames. This story was great, the pictures really brought you along for the ride. Thank you for sharing!

  • jackandjillwedding

    jackandjillwedding said 5 years ago

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • TeamRuster

    TeamRuster said 5 years ago

    What a treasury of information! Thank you <3

  • annacorrinne

    annacorrinne said 5 years ago

    Great design, great era, great story. And the best part about Eames' design is that it's at once iconic of an era, yet still a foundation classic... classic *and* plays well with others :)

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 5 years ago

    Love the Eames stuff too! Thanks for sharing!

  • talktothesun

    talktothesun said 5 years ago

    thanks! great article!!

  • partycraftsecrets

    partycraftsecrets said 5 years ago

    Oh I love the Eames House of Cards - something to add to my forever-long wishlist! Thanks Cate

  • LeCerise

    LeCerise said 5 years ago

    What an exquisite walk down one damn great memory lane, Cate. Above all..."less is more"....Eames & Michigan's own Hermann Miller in Zeeland, MI testify to the greatness of this iconic period of time which you have captured and relayed so well in your post. Thank You. ~Maureen

  • ToniGualtieri

    ToniGualtieri said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the lovely post. I enjoy the design period that Eames lived and worked in. Much of my furniture is original to that period and I find it is timeless and the beauty increases every year.

  • mascarajones

    mascarajones said 5 years ago

    Fantastic post!!!

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

    Ahhh that beautiful Chemex ~ Timeless and good to the last drop!! Great article fantastic finds.

  • salvageshop

    salvageshop said 5 years ago

    timeless

  • RoundRobinVintage

    RoundRobinVintage said 5 years ago

    Eames - sleek, simple and sexy! Very cool article, thanks for sharing :)

  • pasin

    pasin said 5 years ago

    Great post! Love the vintage. Beautiful.........................

  • GossamerMemories

    GossamerMemories said 5 years ago

    AHHHHH!!!! the Eames era .Lovely post. on a simpler well remembered time.

  • time4jewelry

    time4jewelry said 5 years ago

    Never goes out of style. Wish my whole house was full of Eames Era beauties.

  • SusanKJewelry

    SusanKJewelry said 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. IHaving been a fan for many years I have a few pieces of eames furniture in my home and i am aways amazed at how ahead of the times they were. The pieces will always be classic modern pieces. The simple lines are definitely uncluttered and ergonomic.

  • mythunderstood

    mythunderstood said 5 years ago

    That hedgehog is the most precious thing I've ever seen. Great story.

  • GloryBDesign

    GloryBDesign said 5 years ago

    The "Color Kittens" was my favorite Golden Book as a child! Even back then I had a passion for vibrant color! Great article! Thanks!

  • rajasthanhandicraft

    rajasthanhandicraft said 5 years ago

    Great post! Love the stuffs..........

  • LastingTokens

    LastingTokens said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great post. I'm new here and look forward to more like this, most of the items included really spoke to me and made me smile on a rather bleak morning.

  • anniefitt

    anniefitt said 5 years ago

    Oh, I remember so many of those things in our house! Do you remember the brass kitten? We used it as an egg cup, and supposedly the (very sharp) tail was for breaking into the shell. Brass makes food taste funny, but it was too fun to not use that way...

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose said 5 years ago

    Oh you made me smile when I saw the Color Kittens....

  • TallyLocke

    TallyLocke said 5 years ago

    It constantly amazes me how the 'stuff' of our lives - all that which we touch and interact with - has the potential to shape us, sometimes for better and sometimes for ill. With your family's emphasis on authentic objects and the handmade, your tastes grew in exciting new directions in stark opposition to the status quo. THIS is the power of handmade objects in our lives. Its why I'm a furniture maker.

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    Enjoyed reading your article and loved the pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  • compassionmalas

    compassionmalas said 5 years ago

    Nice article! It made me want to get the wood polish out to my Heywood Wakefield chair and get the wooden monkey back from Mom and Dad's house. Thank goodness my parents never threw out anything. It's a treasure trove. I miss wearing those dresses, but not the white gloves!

  • adorablebannerco

    adorablebannerco said 5 years ago

    Enjoyable writing. Thank you for sharing your remembrances. Why do you think mid century modern appeals to such a young(er) group today? Younger than you, one who grew up with those influences. Where are the 20s and 30s getting this Eames inspiration from?

  • TropicArts

    TropicArts said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great article! I was born in 1975, and missed the midcentury years altogether, so it's all the more wonderful to hear your story!

  • Niftic

    Niftic said 5 years ago

    Fabulous in every way! I'm a mid-century kind of gal.

  • abbyberkson

    abbyberkson said 5 years ago

    this was so fun to read and look at- thank you!!

  • abbyberkson

    abbyberkson said 5 years ago

    I Love the top photo of the toy shop or movie set...... does anyone know what that is from? (Besides Life Magazine). If it is from a movie set i'd like to seek out that movie.....

  • lemondear

    lemondear said 5 years ago

    what a beautiful story, and how lucky to have been brought up in a time when all of those marvellous things some of us revere today were so fresh and new! thankfully, because of articles like yours and because of people who take the most loving care of Eames era furniture, and archivist of music and films, everything about the Eames era is now almost as fresh as it was back in the day @abbyberkson: it is a photograph of Charles Eames and his wife

  • TheCornerStoreBK

    TheCornerStoreBK said 5 years ago

    thank you for including me in your beautiful story

  • SimplyMaco

    SimplyMaco said 5 years ago

    "I wore stockings and a garter belt for the very first time (what misery!)." --------- Misery? A garter belt hanging from the hips results in a much better line, IMO, than modern day pantyhose that put a dent in the stomach, creating rolls even where there are none to start with. They also don't slide down all the danged time. I don't wear pantyhose when dressing up anymore. It's gotta be a garter belt and stockings, superior in so many ways.

  • thrivingviolet

    thrivingviolet said 5 years ago

    I love this era. Thank you for sharing.

  • squibbles76

    squibbles76 said 5 years ago

    I love nostalgia from any era. When someone posts their memories it allows us to join them and see through their eyes, their lives. Even if it is only for a moment. This type of entertainment is great for those like me who do not travel. I also get to learn new things by reading what others share. Thank you.

  • BluebirdJewellery

    BluebirdJewellery said 5 years ago

    Lovely post and love that dress!

  • carolannolson

    carolannolson said 5 years ago

    What neat items. I have a cow creamer and had no idea its connection. Thanks.

  • artandgoods

    artandgoods said 5 years ago

    Great story, thanks for sharing, I which I would have been around in those time I was to young, just miss it, but I enjoyed it today. Thank you.

  • seule771

    seule771 said 5 years ago

    Truly vintage era of nostalgia...and of things fondly remembered...the best of times depicted.

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