A Tablescape within a Landscape

The Eames House, with its modernist tendencies, was centered around the relationship between indoors and outdoors. The facade boasted intentionally-placed transparent and opaque textured glass that allowed for easy viewing inward and outward, while two brick-paved courtyards provided ample space for the enjoyment of nature. Charles and Ray utilized the exterior courtyards as an extension of indoor space and as a functional testing grounds for various furniture prototypes.

Lisa Ponti and Charles Eames on the south courtyard of the Eames House, circa 1960s.

The Eameses’ primary objective wasn’t that their furniture be visually appealing; they were intensely focused on their designs’ functionality and quality. One piece of outdoor furniture held a particularly important function in blending indoor and outdoor activities: the south courtyard’s square table. This table, made from driftwood slats attached to a prototype Eames Lounge Chair base, rests at a low height perfectly suited for pairing with the Eames Fiberglass Side Chair or Eames Wire Chair. At this table, Charles and Ray created lavish tablescapes rich in color and textureexploring the elements of design in an unexpected fashion.

What you’ll notice when you view these historic photographs of the Eames House’s south courtyard (taken by Charles and Ray in the 1950s) is a sense of maximalism evoked by the driftwood table and its objects. Instead of a sparsely set white tablecloth, the Eameses preferred a textile backdrop of various colors and patterns with contrasting wares. A grapefruit was cut into halves and made at home in two perfect-sized ceramic bowls; butter was chopped into squares and arranged abstractly onto a decorated porcelain plate; and every condiment, jam, and flower was nestled into its own vessel. The entire arrangement was read with ease, its careful planning was disguised as spontaneity. The process of reveling in a meal on this driftwood table, in all of its visual delight, transcended into the act of Charles and Ray enjoying their home and surrounding meadow with one another and with guests.

Published by: Kelsey Rose Williams