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A Modern Garden: At Home with Charles and Ray Eames in California

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A Modern Garden: At Home with Charles and Ray Eames in California

December 28, 2015

From the Department of Famous Love Letters:

In 1941 when a young Charles Eames proposed marriage to Ray, he wrote, “I am 34 (almost) years old, single (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon. I cannot promise to support us very well. But if given the chance I will sure in hell try.”

He sure in hell did. In 1945, the designer began brainstorming ideas with fellow architect Eero Saarinen for a pre-fab house where the Eameses could live in LA’s Pacific Palisades. By the time the iconic modernist home was built four years later, the design had changed radically–because of the garden.

Nearly 70 years later, Case Study House No. 8 and the 1.4-acre property that inspired the Eameses’ work for the rest of their lives remain intact, overseen by the nonprofit Eames Foundation:

Photograph by Gunnar Klack via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by Gunnar Klack via Flickr.

The original plans called for a cliffside house to overlook the ocean. But post-war steel shortages caused delays. Waiting for construction materials to become available, the Eameses picnicked on the property and fell “in love with the meadow.” To preserve it, they changed the design of the house.

Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.

Built in 1949, the house was redesigned to fit into the landscape and became the home of the husband-and-wife design team for the rest of their lives (Charles died in 1978 and Ray died 10 years later).

A shaded patio, with a corrugated steel overhang, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows connect the garden to the living room.

Among the artifacts original to the house is a ball of dried tumbleweed that hangs from the ceiling; the Eameses collected it on their honeymoon in 1941 as they drove from Chicago to the West Coast.

Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.

Above: The house, preserved in its original state to the extent possible, has had plumbing and electrical repairs (and original fabric recently was re-glued).

Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.
Above: Photograph by John Zacherle via Flickr.

Above: The Eames house and garden are open to visitors; to make a reservation, see Eames Foundation.

Above: The Eames house is at 203 Chautauqua Bloulevard, Pacific Palisades, California.

For more Eames design, see:

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