Visiting the Eames Houseby Cornelius Blank on 05/08/2012
A visit to the Eames house is probably as close as it gets to a designer pilgrimage. Located in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to sneak a look at where the famed duo worked and lived.
Best known for their mid century modern furniture, the Eames have come to embody many a designer’s ideal of what it means to live, work and breathe design. Their boundless interest in all fields and subject matters translated into a huge amount of innovative and diverse work spanning industrial design, film, advertising, exhibition design and architecture.
Setting an example
The house sits quietly on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, nestled along a well established row of eucalyptus trees. I have to admit it did seem a little creepy and voyeuristic at first, visiting a private house like this and snooping around the property. But the house itself really is a testament to their live-work lifestyle. Experiencing the space first hand certainly brings you closer to understanding the subtleties of their principles.
So influential has their work been that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary the house was when it was built in 1949 – using off-the shelf industrial parts, the mondrian-like colour panels, the extensive use of glass and it’s open and bright layout became a showpiece for modern living and construction. I particularly love the separate office adjacent to the main living space linked by a cosy little patio garden – a dream set-up for any creative! While modernist, understated and truly practical the house retains a warmth and unpretentious nature that makes the Eames’ work so approachable.
Living your design
The house was not just an avant-garde showpiece but was actively used and lived in for many years. Also called ‘case study house number 8′ it was an experiment in applying and living their design ideals. Ray and Charles actually brought home many of their early furniture prototypes from their workshop to use and test. This allowed them to experience the piece in a space that was to scale, evaluate their concept in all honesty and then if necessary go back and refine further. It is this devotion and passion for the craft that inevitably shows through in their work – you can certainly see it in their thoroughly lived-in and much loved home.
Located close by and also worth a visit, the Eames office is a shop / museum reminiscent of the original studio workshop once located at 901 Washington Blvd. Of course it features all the classics that you can touch, sit in and play with (the best kind of museum) with drawers full of random collections and ephemera, as well as a showcase of past work in exhibition design and film.