Tomorrow’s House (1945) is an out-of-print publication co-authored by Henry Wright, the Managing Editor of Architectural Forum, and George Nelson, a polymath who served as a consultant for the magazine (he is most known for his role as the Director of Design for Herman Miller, a position he began the following year). Both men were self-proclaimed modernists and aimed to synthesize the most economic and usable techniques and materials for building a post-war home. The objective for Tomorrow’s House wasn’t to advertise space-age inspired home design of the future, but instead remind homeowners, architects, and developers to re-center residential designs back toward the needs of those who will actually be using the spaces for living.
The first design for the Eames House was produced the same year Tomorrow’s House was published. The Eames House design that was realized — the second version — was drafted three years later and the home’s construction was completed by the end of 1949. When looking at the Eames House and taking in the design elements that Charles and Ray chose for their now-famous home, it is obvious as to why they were close friends and colleagues with Nelson. Their minds were in-sync in their approaches to design’s largest function: to meet the need of the client.
In solving the design problem to create an ideal chair, Charles noted, “we’ve always been aware of not even attempting to solve the problem of how people should sit, but of rather arbitrarily accepting the way people do sit and operating within that framework.”* Designing their home was no different, as Charles and Ray wanted their 2500 square feet of industrial materials to make no lifestyle demands of them as occupants, but fade to the background instead. Nelson and Wright transcribed a similar philosophy in regard to the home environment: “The reason today’s house is so uninteresting is simply that it fails to echo life as we live it.”
The Case Study Program also launched in the same year as Tomorrow’s House, promoting example home designs for the types of people who needed them urgently: middle-class Americans grasping at the idea of “living the dream”. The materials used for the construction of these homes were pre-existing and meant to ease the hardships of post-war living in a “modern” way. Charles and Ray deeply understood their own processes for work and needs for comfortable living, and they strived to design a home within the parameters of the Case Study Program that mirrored these needs. The briefing for Case Study House #8, written by Charles Eames, described their intention in building the home and it is obvious that they were trying to “echo life as we lived it”:
“The whole solution proceeds from an attempt to use space in direct relation to the personal and professional needs of the individuals revolving around and within the living units inasmuch as the greater part of work or preparation for work will originate here. These houses must function as an integral part of the living pattern of the occupants and will therefore be completely ‘used’ in a very full and real sense. ‘House’ means center of productive activities.”
Below are photographs demonstrating the Eames House’s ability to mimic the day-to-day patterns of Charles and Ray as they consistently flexed between living and working.
Nelson and Wright mention other aspects of a more mindful home, such as banishing the idea that a modern person must rid themselves of their traditional furniture and create a bare space for living. Charles and Ray’s home is refreshingly full of furniture and decorative items, unlike what is expected of a “modern” dwelling. The words of Nelson and Wright that may resonate most true to the housing designs of the Case Study Program, and more specifically with the Eames House, are as follows: “tomorrow’s house needs no new inventions, materials, or techniques for its realization. What is required is a deeper understanding of today’s trends, coupled with the most creative and bold use of the techniques already at hand.”
* Interiors, April 1958, “3 Chairs/3 Records of the Design Process: Charles Eames Leisure Group”