Creative Thinking • The Nob Hill Gazette

The new Eames Institute advances the ethos of two design legends – and steadfast problem solvers.

Llisa Demetrios, chief curator of the Eames Institute. | Photo courtesy of the Eames Institute.

For decades, the Eames name has been associated with designs that combine utility and beauty. In the 1940s, husband and wife Charles and Ray Eames took part in the case study house program focusing on affordable modern residences. And to this day, the mid-century furniture they designed still populates homes, offices, and even airports.

Lesser known: On a rural plot in Petaluma, the Eames Legacy also includes 30 sheep, a llama and a garden.

At the Eames Ranch, in a 1,100 square meter building designed by architect Sea Ranch William Turnbull, tens of thousands of artifacts of the couple are on display, chronicling their deeply intertwined professional and personal lives. Handmade prototypes, furniture components and display items mingle with objects collected during their travels and a treasure trove of family ephemera. The property is home not only to an Eames descendant, but also to the brand new Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity, whose stated mission is “to bring the lessons of Ray and Charles Eames to those who seek to solve the toughest problems in science.” ‘today”.

“The organization’s overarching goal is to uncover the way the Eameses worked, the way they imbued their designs and lives with curiosity and discovery at every turn,” said the President and CEO. from the Eames Institute. John Cary tell it Gazette.

The main house at Eames Ranch was designed by William Turnbull. | Photo courtesy of the Eames Institute.

In the 1972 short film Design Q&A, Charles is asked: “What are the limits of design? To which he replies: “What are the limits of the problems? With the Eames Shell Chair, created in 1948, he and Ray sought to produce low-cost seating with fewer steps and fewer materials. Their case study house was built with off-the-shelf components (concrete, steel, glass, plywood) and intended to be easily duplicated.

The Eames Institute experience is mostly virtual right now, as the ranch undergoes a multi-year renovation to make it more accessible to the public. Its interactive website ( started with three exhibitions — Before they were the Eames plywood in the war and form follows formulation — as well as a magazine, called Kasam!. Going forward, alongside more online exhibits, Cary notes that “we will participate in contextual exhibits, conferences, and other physical programs to give people the opportunity to participate more personally.” Last month, a pop-up exhibition took place at New York Design Week.

The institute is the steward of both the Eames Ranch – which aims to be net zero carbon and net zero water – and the Eames Collection. As extensive as the Main Ranch House assemblage is, it represents only about 5% of the Eames Collection; the rest is stored offsite.

At a recent dinner to celebrate the Eames Institute, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, who provided seed funding for the fledgling nonprofit, humorously recalled the first time he heard of the Eameses when he was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, when a book appeared on his dorm desk: “I open it and the page it opens to is the LCW Chair by those two brothers, Charles and Ray Eames. I had never heard of them before. And I say, ‘What is this? I need to know who did this. And so began my entry into the life of husband and wife Charles and Ray Eames.

His Petaluma HQ contains items created and collected by Charles and Ray Eames. | Photo courtesy of the Eames Institute.

Charles trained as an architect and Ray as a painter. They married in 1941 and formed their eponymous business in Venice, California, engaging in a myriad of businesses – furniture, film, exhibits and textiles, to name a few. This LCW chair? The plywood molding technique used to make it can be traced to a leg brace they developed for the United States Navy during World War II. The Eames’ collaborations continued until his death in 1978; she died 10 years later to the day.

In the mid-1990s, Charles’ only child from his first marriage, Lucy, established Eames Ranch. Closed in activity, it served as his residence and artist’s studio. Lucia – who started the Eames Foundation to preserve the Eames House in Pacific Palisades (aka Case Study House No. 8), which her father and stepmother designed, lived in and treated as a living laboratory – died in 2014.

Today, Lucia’s metalwork, often including cut steel and bronze, is spread throughout the Eames Ranch. One of his five children, Llisa Demetrios, who is also a metal sculptor, resides there and is the chief curator of the Eames Institute. “For me, this collection is not about looking into the past, it’s about looking into the future,” Demetrios said during the launch celebration, noting that his grandparents’ concerns still resonate.

Cary echoes that sentiment in our interview. “The Eames’ vision remains relevant today for what it stirs in us; their work is compelling because they have found inspiration in everyday objects and materials to shape a new perspective, new shapes, new purpose,” he says. “They did so, fueled by the relentless curiosity they had for the world they encountered. … With this new institute, we seek to build on that foundation to create a forum of inspiration that will endure in the same way for generations.

Clockwise: Llisa Demetrios, Chief Curator of the Eames Institute. His Petaluma HQ contains items created and collected by Charles and Ray Eames. The main house at Eames Ranch was designed by William Turnbull.