December 1, 2010
Marilyn Neuhart delivers the most comprehensive look yet at the designers’ legendary furniture
Marilyn Neuhart is something of a design masochist. She spent eight years working with her husband, John Neuhart, and Ray Eames on Eames Design—
a seminal monograph, published in 1989, that she modestly describes as “pretty much a straightforward account” of the Eames studio. In fact, it was the first history to give full credit to the many designers who made the office’s storied projects possible. After that, Neuhart promised herself “no more Eames”—until a German publisher convinced her to do a short book on the innovative Eames House, which quickly sold out after it was published in 1994. And then she broke her promise yet again, agreeing to write a 120-page work on the technical, nuts-and-bolts side of Eames furniture that has mushroomed, 15 years later, into The Story of Eames Furniture, a massive, two-volume set published by Gestalten in September.
The exhaustive tome, coauthored with her husband, a graphic designer who worked in the Eames office in the late 1950s, was clearly a labor of love. Much like Eames Design, it tells its story of the furniture not through the famous couple but by focusing on the team of dedicated employees who experimented with bending plywood, twisting wire, molding fiberglass, and other novel material applications. It profiles well-known Eames collaborators like Herbert Matter and Harry Bertoia as well as unsung talents like Don Albinson—“Charlie Eames’s right-hand guy,” according to Neuhart—and a younger generation of employees that included Dale Bauer, Charles Kratka, Deborah Sussman, Bob Staples, and Dick Donges. “Charles was a crazy-obsessive-perfectionist type,” says Neuhart—a quality that clearly rubbed off on her in undertaking such a daunting project. The result is the definitive account of how some of the most iconic mass-produced furniture of the last century got made.