Visit with Ray, October 1987

A London architecture student in the mid-Sixties, John Young was traveling through Los Angeles with his new wife in 1987. He found the telephone number for Charles and Ray in a phonebook and decided to call. Ray answered the phone and said if they came soon, she would be happy to let them have a quick look at the house. What originally was supposed to be a fifteen minute visit turned into ninety minutes of talking with a new friend.

“In early October 1987 I was in Los Angeles with my new wife, after driving from the east coast and getting married en route in Carson City, Nevada. As an architecture student in London in the mid-Sixties, I developed a life-long interest in the Case Study House program, and had always wanted to see the Eames House.

I had no idea how one went about arranging a visit, so stopping at a public phone on Sunset, I found the address still listed in the phone book as Charles and Ray Eames and rang the number. A woman’s voice answered and I asked whether it would be at all possible to speak to Ray Eames. ‘This is she’ came the reply. I explained I was an architect from London and how I had always wanted to visit the Eames House. Ray said she had something on later that afternoon and would be leaving in half an hour, but if we could get to the house before then, she’d be happy to let us have a quick look.

We got there in about fifteen minutes and so began an enchanting encounter with Ray. She explained the original ideas for the house, and how these changed, why she and Charles decided not to build in the meadow, what it was like to live in the house, and the significance of all the art and folk art within. After half an hour, I reminded Ray that she had another appointment. ‘Oh, that can wait,’ she said and carried on showing us around the house and studio until at the end of ninety minutes we ended up in the kitchen. In that time, someone who we had never met before had become a close friend, and I confided in Ray that we had just got married. ‘This we must celebrate!’ she exclaimed, walking over to the refrigerator to retrieve a dusty half-full bottle of Schnapps. She proceeded to fill three glasses for a toast, and said ‘Charles and I used to keep this for Eero Saarinen when he came by.’

The marriage didn’t last, but the memory of that ninety minutes with Ray more than twenty-six years ago will live with me forever.”