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Case Study House 8 Floor Plan

Eames House Commentary

"This house was designed as an attempt toward a living pattern and not as a fixed architectural pattern. The materials used are steel frame and factory windows with plaster and glass used in panels."

— Frank Harris and Weston Bonenberger, ed. A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in Southern California. p34.

"Charles Eames' own house was one of a number of Case Study Houses sponsored by the West Coast journal Arts and Architecture. The aim of the magazine was to seek out new design ideas—particularly in the use of new materials and techniques—and to propagate good design. Eames' house was certainly unconventional, a package of standard, off-the-peg components which, when assembled, made up an art-work as unique as a Duchamp ready-made. Basically it is a double-storey unit divided into house and studio areas by an open court. The house itself has a full-height living room at the south end and takes up eight of the seventeen standard 7 foot 6 inch bays. The house and studio were built against a 200-foot long concrete retaining wall and constructed as steel skeletons designed to receive standard industrial sashes and panels."

— Dennis Sharp. A Visual History of Twentieth-Century Architecture. p170.

"Eames' house uses existing industrially made components in a straightforward and workmanlike way. But he uses the paneling necessary for an industrial grid in an inventive way. The exterior of his house consists of transparent panels, clear or wired glass; translucent panels which are glass fibre and opaque ones which are wood, grey asbestos, aluminum and coloured blue, red, earth colour, black, or, on occasion, covered with plaster covered with gold leaf.

"R. Craig Miller gives this description of the interior: 'In contrast to the starkness of many international style interiors, Eames's interiors were increasingly filled with distinctive arrangements of furniture, rugs, flowers, pillows, toys, candles, shells and other collectibles that approached a high Victorian clutter.' "

— David Dunster. Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century Volume 2: Houses 1945-1989. p16-17.

"Factory-produced steel window and door units, as well as steel framing and roof decking, metal frames are filled with transparent or translucent glass and panels of stucco painted with primary colors or white. The main part of the living area is two stories high. Bedrooms are on a mezzanine floor which opens into the living room; beneath the mezzanine is a small alcove with built-in seats and bookcases."

— from Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Arthur Drexler, ed. Built in the USA: Post-war Architecture. p59.

The Creator's Words

"In the exhibit, we are trying to show something about a decision that the designer must make when he starts to work for a client. We have found it a very helpful strategy to restrict our own work to subjects that are of genuine and immediate interest to us—and are of equal interest to the client. If we were to work on things or in ways that we knew were not of legitimate concern to both of us, we probably would not be serving our clients, or ourselves, very well. Throughout the work for the various clients, the unifying force is this common interest, plus a preoccupation with structure which comes from looking at all problems as architectural ones... As client and designer get to know each other, they influence each other. As society's needs become more apparent, both client and designer expand their own personal concerns to meet these needs."

— Charles Eames. from the catalogue for the exhibition What is Design? p14.

Details

201 Chautuaqua
Santa Monica, California

American Institute of Architects 25 Year Award, 1978

1949

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.

 

The Case Study House Program

The Eames House, Case Study House 8, was one of roughly two dozen homes built as part of The Case Study House Program. John Entenza, the publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, spearheaded the program in the mid-1940s, and it continued through the early 1960s.

In a challenge to the architectural community, the magazine announced that it would be the client for a series of homes designed to express man’s life in the modern world. These houses were to be built and furnished using materials and techniques derived from the experiences of the Second World War. Each home would be for a real or hypothetical client, taking into consideration each of the particular housing needs.

Charles and Ray proposed that the house they design be for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. They wanted a place that would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles said, “life in work,” with nature as a “shock absorber.” Click here to see their design brief in the December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture.

 

Bridge House vs. Eames House Schematics

The first plan of the Eameses’ home, known as the Bridge House, was designed in 1945 by Charles and Eero Saarinen. The design used pre-fabricated materials ordered from catalogues (a continuation of the idea of mass-production). The parts were ordered and the Bridge House design was published in the December 1945 issue of the magazine, but due to a war-driven shortage, the steel did not arrive until late 1948. By then, according to Ray, she and Charles had “fallen in love with the meadow,” and felt that the site required a different solution.

In the image gallery below, compare the schematics for the Bridge House and the Eames House. These plans were published in the May 1949 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine.

Charles and Ray then set themselves a new problem: How to build a house that would not destroy the meadow and that would “maximize volume from minimal materials.” Using the same off-the-shelf parts, but notably ordering one extra steel beam, Charles and Ray reconfigured the House. They integrated the new design into the landscape, rather than imposing the structure on it. This second design is the one that the husband-and-wife team chose to build.

They moved into the House on Christmas Eve, 1949, and lived there for the rest of their lives. The interior, its objects, and its collections remain very much the way they were in Charles and Ray’s lifetimes. The house they created offered them a space where work, play, life, and nature co-existed.

The Eames House, now a historic landmark, is an iconographic structure visited by people from all across the world. Its charm and appeal are perhaps best explained by Case Study House founder, John Entenza, who felt that the Eames House “represented an attempt to state an idea rather than a fixed architectural pattern.”

 

The Eames House Today

In 2004, Charles’s daughter, Lucia Eames, created a not-for-profit organization called the Eames Foundation to preserve and protect the Eames House and to provide educational experiences that celebrate the creative legacy of Charles and Ray.

Today, the Getty Museum is working with The Eames Foundation on conservation of this historic landmark. Learn more in this download from the museum.

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.