Last summer we took a trip to Los Angeles and on that trip we visited the Eames Case Study No. 8 house. It has always been on my bucket list ever since I saw the film, “Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter”, about Ray and Charles, and their life together, it led me from being a fan to straight obsessed with the duo.
It's amazing how this couple, Ray and Charles Eames are a part of our everyday lives and culture but go unnoticed by most people. And yet 75 years later their designs are still prominent in our society. Many of their works we use still to this day. For example, most people don’t realize that the basic airport tandem chairs were designed by them. Or the same chairs that were in my school cafeteria (the fiberglass molded side chair) are also their design.
Most of my inspiration from them is not due to their furniture designs but their design philosophy. There are two quotes that reflect their design theories that really resonate with me personally, both by Charles Eames. One being “Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” and “The details are not the details. They make the design."
In others words to truly design is not all about aesthetics or making something look pretty but to address all the needs to fully answer the design question or problem. Meaning function, details, aesthetics, and making it accessible to most is to address all components of the problem, and solving all of those questions will create a successful design.
As we walked around the grounds to their house on our visit last summer. It was like an oasis with large shaded trees, a cliff side view of the ocean, a playful tree swing, and their house with large open rectangular windows that make the outside feel in. And the interior space is decorated with pieces from all over their world travels that include a mixture of textures and materials. It was magical. They truly exemplified their design theories and possibly exceeded my highest expectations. I couldn’t have been happier. What took my breath away and further inspired me was their ingenuity they showed with the materials they used on Case Study No8. As I browsed the industrial catalog that was as large as an Ikea catalog, that they sourced all their supplies to make case study No. 8. I realized they had used a large sheet of industrial corrugated glass as a room divider in the kitchen and laundry room to create privacy while still letting light in. While this material is typically used for awnings on large buildings to prevent getting rained on. Used as a wall or room divider was beautiful. Doing this added an unusual way to use everyday materials but still create a functional, elevated space to live in and be happy. It made me think of how many other everyday materials that are inexpensive but strong and durable can we use in different context. They took the design question outside of the box flipped it upside down and still solved for the answer in the most beautiful way.
Another thing I love about Ray and Charles Eames is how their designs also show how to straddle modern styling while blending seamlessly natural elements to their designs. Making it never feel too cold or too earthy and giving it a timelessly edgy but contemporary feel.
Their approach of solving for the entire definition of the design problem and not just a portion like most designers is why I think their designs have continued to live far beyond their lifetime and be valued for so much more.
Our trip to the Eames Case Study No 8 house was an inspiration and push for me to design something great and made of quality like Ray & Charles did. To create designs that truly address and solve for the entire 3 dimensional problem. To put designs out into our world that someone will value and cherish more, because they not only love the way it makes them look and feel, but it also supports their lives, in fit and durability. To help make life feel more effortless and proud in their own skin is what I can only hope that Topographie can do for women.
Sisters, Penny & Bonnie Fest writing about their Yin & Yang inspirations.