My Afternoon with Charles and Ray Eames
After completing the post-war house and studio next door in 1949, the couple — two of America’s most influential designers of the twentieth century design —lived and worked here until Charles’ death in 1978. Ray continued to live and work in the studio until she passed away in 1988. While Charles and Ray may not have been physically present during our afternoon visit, their generous and playful spirits accompanied us throughout our time there.
And as we walked around in awe, I kept trying to work out why it was my mother and I could feel their presence so strongly. Was it because we were so familiar with their work? Was it because the house had been left pretty much intact since they had lived there? Was it that the physical setting with the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean within sight and the smell of the Eucalyptus and dry California air was so seductive?
Most likely all of the above and yet there was still something else. Elusive and hard to pin down, I had just about given up to trying to understand it and give into enjoying it for what it was when I came upon a set of interpretation panels in the meadow in front of the house.
And there it was, this quote by Charles Eames.
“The role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests — those who enter the building and use the objects in it. Whether it be Brunelleschi in the 16th Century, or Stanford White in the late 19th century — their concerns were very much the same. And now, when anyone works on a project in our office, it’s with that sense of a host.”
Sixty-five years later, the Eames’ are still playing host and now to guests that they don’t even know — something I imagine that would have given them great pleasure. And as much as we could feel their spirit in the way they used their house, it was how they wanted others to enjoy and appreciate their house from which we benefited the most on our afternoon visit. My mother called it a “good home”.
Here’s to good hosts.
The Eames House is open to the public for exterior self-guided visits as well as private interior tours. Reservations are required in advance and details can be found here. London-based readers might be interested in visiting The World of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition at the Barbican.
Unless otherwise noted, photography by Christine Chang Hanway.
N.B.: This post was originally published on My Contents Have Shifted.