Eames Archives: Two Sculptures for a House

Charles and Ray felt free to move and reorganize their belongings during their first decade in the Eames House. Similar to the home interiors of many of their modern peers, the Eameses found great interest in displaying folk art, artwork produced by friends, and items collected from nature.

Consider this 1950 image of the couple’s living room. It features two objects that are important to the storytelling of the Eameses’ home collection: the pier logs (top left) and the sculpture by artist Alexander Calder (bottom center). This is a rare image of the two pieces existing harmoniously.

Charles and Ray collected the logs after a nearby pier fire in Malibu and placed them in their living room as soon as they built their home. Displaying oversized, burnt wood as art was not a common occurrence inside an American home in the 1950s! As Charles and Ray began to acquire more objects and design new pieces of furniture, they relocated the wooden mass to its permanent home outside in the south courtyard.

In contrast to the wood sculpture, the work by Calder was made from industrial sheet metal. The Eameses had the black-and-red abstracted sculpture in their first Los Angeles apartment. It then graced the floor of the Eames House for several years before they traded it with their friend Billy Wilder for two African wood sculptures, hand-carved into leopards.

Charles and Ray avidly collected a wide variety of objects, and they didn’t deem any one of them as “valuable” or “invaluable” in terms of its price tag. For them, the importance of an object was tied to its sentimental value, its artistic qualities, or its admirable functionality. They gave the same importance to charred, discarded planks of wood as they did to a metal stabile of a celebrated modern artist.

Since the couple avoided having a focal point in the Eames House collection, it makes every interior photograph seem even more fascinating. It allows one to playfully brainstorm answers to the question: “What made this object so enjoyable to Charles and Ray?”