Charles and Ray Eames were the archetypal design power couple, who each brought their own distinct kind of creative genius to the personal and professional partnership. When they visited NBC’s daytime Home show in 1956 to debut their (now-iconic) eponymous lounge, Charles introduced themselves thusly: “Ray is a painter. I am an architect.” Host Arlene Francis has a slightly different take: “Almost always when there is a successful man, there is a very interesting and able woman behind him.”
It’s a funny take on a turn of phrase that later would become a kind of feminist adage: “Behind every great man is an even greater woman.” Here, however, it’s clear that the common gender biases of the time kept Charles in the foreground, despite the fact that they operated as a team.
Apart from the standout sexism, this is actually a brilliant little crash course in the design ideals that drove the duo. When Charles steps forward to describe the development and evolution of their chairs leading up to the lounger’s big reveal, he discusses materials, production processes, and sensibilities — toys aren’t just for kids! — in a way that makes their vision feel just as clear and relevant today as it was almost 60 years ago.