A Tablescape within a Landscape

The Eames House, with its modernist tendencies, was centered around the relationship between indoors and outdoors. The volume of glass, with a facade of intentionally placed transparent and opaque textured glass, allowed for easy viewing inward and outward, while two brick-paved courtyards provided ample space for enjoyment of nature. Much like the interior of the house and studio structures, Charles and Ray also utilized the exterior courtyards 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, but 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 texture — exploring the elements of design in an unexpected fashion.

What you’ll notice when you view these historic photographs (taken by Charles and Ray in the 1950s) of the Eames House’s south courtyard 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 plateware. A grapefruit was cut into halves and made at home in two perfectly fitted ceramic bowls; butter was chopped into squares 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 as 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