An Eames of Your Own Aims to Demystify Collecting Design Objects

09.21.23 | By
An Eames of Your Own Aims to Demystify Collecting Design Objects

Ray and Charles Eames have become almost singularly synonymous with a certain style of approachable and playful mid-century design that perseveres in popularity today, in no small part to the various projects and partnerships that have kept their names relevant across generations, occasionally to the chagrin of purists.

Catherine Potvin line illustration of person with boots on seated on Eames La Fonda Arm Chair with orange upholstery.

No surprise, the dynamic duo’s designs have also become immensely sought after amongst collectors and the general public alike. The Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity is a non-profit organization with a fantastical name dedicated to an essential purpose of promoting and educating the public about the tenets of the iconic designer couple. Their newly released guide, An Eames of Your Own, created with the Institute’s head of research and acquisitions is here to help demystify collecting not only Eames pieces, but most any noteworthy collectible in practice.

Catherine Potvin line illustration of person embracing Eames plywood chair.

As anyone who has first dipped their toes into appreciating and identifying the finer nuances of wine and their provenance, collecting furniture requires a similar foundational knowledge to move up from newbie to informed collector. An Eames of Your Own outlines five key tenets applicable not only to Eames pieces, but any design object of historical and cultural significance.

Accompanied by the whimsical period-inspired illustrations of Catherine Potvin, the guide features artifacts from the Eames Collection alongside advice penned by self-professed Eames aficionado and filmmaker Daniel Ostroff to help demystify collecting vintage modern furniture, accessories, and art. An abbreviated version below:

Catherine Potvin line illustration of one person seated in Eames rocker with another nearby smaller figure pointing at a photo of the same chair accompanied with the date "1959" denoting its original design date.

Story over style: Focus on discovering the object’s history, instead of just its flashy title. Each Eames piece has a background, and its unique journey can make it even more valuable.

Catherine Potvin loose line drawing of two people, one seated on Eames wire chair holding up a flower, another behind an Eames Dining Chair, and 1948 coffee table with cat underneath and small cup with straws in it.

Don’t mess with patina: The less a collector does the better, especially if they have a piece in its original condition. Try to make no modifications in order to preserve the original quality, or if you do, channel Ray and Charles Eames by only making changes that increase the longevity of the piece.

Catherine Potvin loose line drawing of person with measuring tape measuring three green Eames dining chairs with X base.

Earlier isn’t necessarily better: The oldest dated Eames piece doesn’t always make it more valuable, as Ray and Charles were constantly iterating to perfect their craft. Don’t get caught up in how old it is, and prioritize other aspects.

Catherine Potvin loose line drawing of two people coming down stairs carrying Eames shell chairs with another person scratching their head looking at Eames chairs with mismatched bases.

Beware of FrankenEames: Some non-serious dealers will mix and match original bases and chair seats, creating a “Frankenstein chair,” blending Eames pieces thus reducing the validity of the furniture.

Catherine Potvin loose line drawing of one person seated in Eames leather chair reading vintage Herman Miller catalog with another smaller person with eyeglasses standing four stacks of books, each checking the history of the furniture.

Become an Eames librarian: Read as much as you can about Ray and Charles Eames and their work. Start with vintage Herman Miller Catalogs, Connections.

For the complete guide about collecting Eames designs, steer on over to the Eames Institute’s latest Kazam! Feature, An Eames of Your Own.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at