Having Your Own Eames: Demystifying the Collection of Design Objects

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Ray and Charles Eames, the iconic designers known for their approachable and playful mid-century design, continue to capture the attention of collectors and the general public. Their creations have remained popular over the years, thanks to various projects and partnerships that have sustained their relevance. To cater to the growing interest in their designs, the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and educating the public about the Eames’ work, has released a new guide called “An Eames of Your Own.”

Written in collaboration with the Institute’s head of research and acquisitions, the guide aims to demystify the process of collecting Eames pieces, as well as other noteworthy collectibles. Similar to appreciating fine wine, collecting furniture requires a foundational knowledge to graduate from a novice to an informed collector. “An Eames of Your Own” outlines five key principles that apply not only to Eames pieces but also to any design object of historical and cultural significance.

Accompanied by illustrations from Catherine Potvin, inspired by the whimsical aesthetics of the time, the guide features artifacts from the Eames Collection. It also includes advice from self-professed Eames aficionado and filmmaker Daniel Ostroff. Ostroff’s insights help readers navigate the world of vintage modern furniture, accessories, and art.

One principle highlighted in the guide is the importance of prioritizing the story behind the object over its mere style. Digging into the background of an Eames piece can reveal its unique journey and increase its value. Additionally, the guide advises collectors to avoid making modifications to preserve the original quality of the piece. If alterations are deemed necessary, it should be done with the intention of enhancing the longevity of the item, similar to how Ray and Charles Eames approached their own work.

Contrary to popular belief, the age of an Eames piece does not necessarily determine its value. Ray and Charles constantly strived to perfect their craft, and as a result, the oldest dated Eames piece may not be the most valuable. Collectors are encouraged to prioritize other aspects and not get caught up in the age factor.

Another issue highlighted in the guide is the presence of counterfeit or improperly combined Eames pieces. Some dealers may create “Frankenstein chairs” by mixing and matching original bases and chair seats. This practice erodes the authenticity and value of the furniture, and collectors are advised to be cautious of such manipulated pieces.

To truly immerse oneself in the world of Eames designs, the guide recommends becoming an “Eames librarian” and reading extensively about Ray and Charles Eames and their work. Starting with vintage Herman Miller catalogs and other resources can enhance one’s knowledge and appreciation of their designs.

For those interested in a comprehensive guide to collecting Eames designs, the Eames Institute’s latest feature, “An Eames of Your Own,” is now available.

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