Charles and Ray Eames at The Eames House, Pacific Palisades, 1958
From David. A Keeps, “Landmark Houses: The Eames House,” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2012:
Hear the name “Eames,” and you probably picture bent plywood “potato chip” chairs, or midcentury tables resting on “paper clip” legs—iconic furnishings that shaped the legacy of their designers.
Less known is Charles and Ray Eames’ 1949 Pacific Palisades home, though it has profoundly influenced how Southern Californians nest, even to this day.
Their glass-and-steel house and studio — like monolithic Mondrian canvases springing from the ground — were not merely a residence and work space. They were incubators for a new way of living. The Palisades house remains an enduring symbol of post-World War II design and L.A.’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
“California has always attracted people of imagination who felt free to express themselves,” said Bill Stern, founder of the California Museum of Design, during a celebration marking the formal dedication of the Eames House as a national historic landmark. “The Eames House eschewed traditional materials like bricks and sticks, and used glass and steel in fresh ways to create a new understanding of how people can live.”
Anybody thinking of building a house should “come here and take notes,” added film producer and Eames scholar Daniel Ostroff.
“There’s a horrible trend in architecture today where the last person that everybody thinks about is the user,” he said. “In its concerns for practicality, use, beauty, durability and cost, the Eames House is the most important innovation in home design since the tepee.”
Arguably the father of American midcentury modernism, Charles Eames was a design polyglot, fluent in the languages of architecture, industrial engineering, photography, graphic arts and filmmaking. His wife and design partner Ray was a painter who had studied with famed Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann.
As designers, the couple exuded an optimism about new materials and technology. Being newcomers to Los Angeles, they embraced the expansive physical and psychological landscape.
The Eames House referenced Bauhaus design but was a major departure from the austerity of that movement. Composed of dual two-story rectangular boxes bathed in California sunshine, the form followed its intended function: to provide shelter from the elements while living among them.
Image: The Eames House living room, Pacific Palisades, 1958, photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy of the Eames Foundation.