Prototype Family Seating Shell
USA, 1969-1970
Charles and Ray Eames

Molded fiberglass
83½ × 41 × 22¼”

The vast influence of Charles and Ray Eames is immeasurable; Responding to the burgeoning attitudes and landscapes of mid-century America, they created an utterly unique and novel design world, born from their curiosity, industriousness, optimism and humanistic impulses.

In 1940, the Charles and Ray met at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Charles was collaborating with Eero Saarinen on furniture designs and Ray was studying painting. The two married in 1941 and moved to Los Angeles soon after, establishing their highly influential design firm that, with the help of other talented designers they brought in, would re-shape modern design. Early explorations in plywood and mass-producing sturdy, livable and charming furniture brought them success and allowed them to extend their efforts into more diverse fields such as education, textiles, filmmaking, curating, architecture and industrial design.

The Eames Office operated for over four decades, exerting an enormous influence on modern and contemporary design through their limitless vision of the human spirit. Charles passed away in 1978 and Ray died ten years later to the day. Their contribution to the American ethos continues to inspire and influence contemporary design today.

This unique prototype shell comes from the collection of a former Eames Office employee. Developed around the same time as the Tandem Shell Seating, Charles and Ray designed this shell as a seating option to accommodate entire families; however the model never went into production. The shell was hand-shaped and molded on site at the Eames Office and bears a pencil mark made by Charles to indicate where the seat depth should be adjusted. —Wright

(Photo: Wright)