Performing Eames

Charles and Ray Eames equated their efforts of hosting to the circus act; while a clown’s movements are meticulously planned, the act must appear spontaneous and natural to the viewer. Case Study House #8, or the home affectionately known as the Eames House, was the stage for the couple’s many hospitable presentations for friends, clients, and the occasional trespassing stranger. The Eames Office staff were assigned various tasks prior to the guests’ arrivals in order to prep the home. Freshly pressed curtains would be shaken out, new candles would be burned to acceptable heights, and the assemblages of objects would be placed intentionally among the many Eames-designed furnishings. Charles and Ray wanted the atmosphere to feel warm and lived in, not sterile and overly industrial.

When a guest arrived at the house, they were sometimes greeted by a playful Charles and Ray wearing masks (and in the early 1950s, one of the site’s eucalyptus trees was adorned with a toothy-grinned mask). Ray, who trained in ballet and modern dance, enjoyed entertaining with a graceful performance of movements. Oftentimes, guests were seated in the living room alcove to watch visual presentations on a projector screen. When it came to eating, it was Charles that remarked, “Every time I lay a table, I am designing something.” The table settings would be presented with a feeling of abundance — almost every inch of the surface filled with pattern, color, texture, bits of food prepared delicately in individual vessels, gold-dipped utensils, and contrasting plates and napkins.

The Eameses’ hope was that each guest would feel immediately welcomed, graciously offered provisions to accommodate particular dietary needs, and given a specialized visit curated to their personal interests — a time that surely felt a bit like magic. The entire Eames House experience was a visual treat.

To celebrate this sense of Eamesian playfulness, the Eames Foundation is hosting its annual Members Appreciation Day with the theme of toys. Become a member now to enjoy a day of mask making in the meadow, interior tours of the Eames House, and scrumptious bites on June 16th, 2018.


Published by: Kelsey Rose Williams