Charles briefly studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on an architectural scholarship. While at Washington University, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, whom he married in 1929. A year later, they had a daughter, Lucia.
In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley. One great influence on him was the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend). At Eliel Saarinen's invitation, he moved in 1938 with his wife Catherine and daughter Lucia to Michigan, to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a teacher and head of the industrial design department. One of the requirements of the Architecture and Urban Planning Program, at the time Eames applied, was for the student to have decided upon his project and gathered as much pertinent information in advance � Eames' interest was in the St. Louis waterfront. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding, that Eames would further develop in many moulded plywoodproduct.