Ray Eames’ workspace vs. Charles Eames’ workspace

Ray Eames' desk and workspace

There’s something compelling about Ray Eames’ desk area, papered with work and photographs. Many people seem to have a fierce aversion to clutter these days (driven no doubt by the storage furniture industry) but artists like to have materials and visual stimulation at hand in their studios and there’s some evidence that this supports the creative process. Charles Eames’ desk was interesting too, if a bit more austere. They each had the same beautiful adjustable trestle drafting table, but Ray sat facing her bulletin board full of images while Charles sat facing out into the room, and I’m sure there are plenty of theories about that. Photos are from Eames Office.

Charles Eames' desk and workspace

3 comments on "Ray Eames’ workspace vs. Charles Eames’ workspace"

  1. Fascinating photos. I love the Ray Eames work area. A huge untidy mess, just as a work area should be.

    I must admit to not really understanding the Charles Eames photo, though. A few pens and a couple of in/out trays. And why would anyone have their work area facing into the room and not facing the wall? Where’s your source material? Where’s your inspiration? OH! If there was a full length mirror on the other side of the wall, that might explain a lot.

  2. Ha! I sort of had the same thought. I casually googled “desk facing out into the room” and all I could find were all these feng shui sites claiming that this is the most desirable desk placement – that you must not face the wall, you should be in a “command position” looking out into the room and not have your back to the door. I suspect most artists would happily defy that kind of power-obsessed dictum, and anyway in practical terms, where would you pin your designs and ideas? To be fair to Charles, the two photos were taken in 1976 when he was about 70 and he died soon after, so he may not have been working as much in his office by then and perhaps it was always more an office than a studio for him. But it’s really hard not to read into these photographs, especially considering the infuriating lack of recognition Ray won for her role in their collaboration and the fact that Charles seemed to allow it. Sure, those were the times, but still: http://www.jstor.org/pss/991452 from “Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century.”

  3. Unfortunately twentieth century husband & wife teams never seemed to be very equal. I can think of Robin & Lucienne Day as well as Roger & Sonia Delaunay. It doesn’t help when the female member of the ‘team’ is more involved in the decorative side of interiors rather than with furniture design. The decorative arts have been sneered at for most of the twentieth century, most notably by men, while furniture design has somehow managed to link itself with architecture and engineering and been seen as a noble and manly pursuit, with textile design etc being classed as something flippant and transitory.

    I expect Ray was there with a cool, damp cloth to ease Charles’ furrowed brow whenever he had a particularly vexing problem with a chair leg. The fact that she would have had to drop everything to minister to her husband, was of course a minor inconvenience.

    I know I’m being unkind to Charles and probably exaggerating, but you get the idea.

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