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The Eames House

The Outside View Of The Eames House

The husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames created some of the most memorable mid-century designs – their own house being one of them. The Eames House is an icon of mid-20th century modern architecture, located in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles. With the help of their friend Eero Saarinen, the couple designed and constructed it in 1949 to serve as their home and studio. They would live there until their deaths: Charles in 1978 and Ray, ten years to the day, in 1988.

The Couple.

Take your pleasure seriously.

Charles and Ray Eames
Charles and Ray Eames in their home.

Charles met his future partner and wife, Bernice Alexandra Kaiser, at the Art Academy in Cranbrook and they married in 1941 after a brief courtship. Their honeymoon was a road trip which saw the pair relocate permanently from the Midwest to Los Angeles, California. They opened their famous design firm in 1943, with a bold and simple mission statement: “We want to make the best for the most for the least”.

The Eames couple pushed creative limits and were known for their playful aesthetic. There was a running joke that Charles was an architect who never finished architecture school, while Ray was a painter who never painted. Regardless, this romantic collaboration produced iconic chairs that transformed modern furniture design. They also delved into graphics and textiles, architecture, toy-making and filmmaking.

1959 Toy Mask Prototypes by Charles and Ray Eames.

The Eameses lived life beautifully. Not just through their furniture and design, but also through their philosophy on life. They were curious about the world around them and their work was a journey of discovery. Their home came to symbolize their philosophy, with the way the Eameses lived their life in their home echoing how they lived their life at work.

The House.

Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames.

The Eames House consists of two glass and steel rectangular boxes: one functioning as a residence and the other as a studio. The structures are aligned along a central axis with a court on the ocean side of the House, a court between the two structures, and a parking on the Studio far side. The façade is made up of black-painted grids, with different-sized inserts of glass, grey Cemesto panels, aluminium, specially-treated panels and red, white, black and blue plaster.

The Eames House structure and its contents are often the focus of attention, but the landscape is deserving of a highlight too.

Eventually everything connects.

Charles Eames

The house is nestled into the hillside, motivated by the Eameses’ decision to preserve the meadow and a row of eucalyptus trees. The meadow was not mowed and weeds were allowed to grow and spring bulbs or wildflowers were planted. Garden beds were nurtured on either side of the two property structures and were filed with plants like Icelandic poppies, delphiniums, foxgloves and star jasmine. Large pot plants bordered the house and Ray would fill the home with vases of flowers that she had arranged, blurring the line between inside and outside.

It is said that at the end of the day, when Ray arrived home from the Office, she would step out of her car, pause, inhale deeply and smile. It was always a beautiful homecoming to a house surrounded by nature.

The Collections.

The details are not the details, the details make the product.

Charles and Ray Eames.

Charles described their house as “unselfconscious” and it was filled with objects that told the story of their lives – careful arrangements of objects and flowers, books, fabric, art, shells, rocks and straw baskets. This created a wonderful contrast between the modern structure and the familiarity and warmth of the interiors.

Their sentimental approach to their home is perhaps best epitomized by the story behind the dried tumbleweed hanging from the ceiling. An Eames grandchild, Eames Demtrios, tells the story of how Charles and Ray found the tumbleweed on their honeymoon road trip and tossed it into the car. This piece of memorabilia was photographed, shown in some showroom exhibitions and was eventually hung from the living room ceiling by a piece of string, spinning in the light.

The Hosts.

The role of the designer is that of a very good thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

Charles Eames.
Ray and Charles Eames outside their home.

Charles and Ray Eames are remembered as exceptional hosts and having people at their home became a central element of their life. It was as if as much effort and thought was put into hosting an event as was into a product design. Each table setting created by Ray was like artwork, decorated with flowers, colourful dishes, patterned tablecloths and bright napkins. She would curate the room – arranging objects, plumping pillows and burning candles to just the right lengths. Food was simple but of high quality and often consisted of beautifully arranged platters of fruit, cheese, breads, and chocolate. A guest was once served three bowls of flowers after a meal at their house., with Ray calling it a “visual dessert”.

Charles and Ray did a Japanese tea ceremony with Charlie Chaplin and Isamu Noguchi, they picnicked in the meadow with their grandchildren and some recall the couple eating breakfast by candlelight.

The Eameses hosting at their home.

The close relationship between Charles and Ray Eames was evident in the work that they produced, the house that they built and the life that they led. They were inventive, playful and eclectic and it was those character traits that added to their creative genius and lasting legacy in the design world.

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