A Very Eames Birthday

I’ve never been one to develop deep, romantic celebrity crushes—those powerful fantasies often ending in soul-crushing defeat when you realize that the famous apple of your eye is unavailable. Or worse, dead. 7-year-old me is looking at you, Judy Garland.

But I’m in love, so in love. With Charles and Ray Eames. Both of them. As one unit.

I should have seen this coming. A love of every single gorgeous iteration of the shell chair is bound to eventually give way to a broader fascination and respect for their work. I honestly don’t believe there exists a single thing designed by their hands that I don’t love. They were the most brilliant and prolific American designers for 50 some-odd years, and as far as I’m concerned, they still are. Hands down.

But with a great love of their work came a love of the people themselves, and I think their creative output just speaks so nicely to who I imagine them to be as individuals. They’re brilliant, obviously, but they also seem incredibly kind. And fun. Hardworking and a bit silly. Both charming and modest. People who valued their privacy but were generous enough to share their perspective with a world that benefitted from it, knowingly or not.

It was a couple months ago that I discovered their films and started watching them in the NYU library, sitting for an afternoon in front of a little TV on the second floor of Bobst for an afternoon and just working my way through a couple disks every now and again. I knew about the “Powers of Ten,” having seen it a few times in assorted places, but did you know they made roughly 85 films throughout their careers? Some have to do with their designs. Some are historical and informative. Some are just incredibly beautiful little snippets of the world, made ripe for our own appreciation through the added value of theirs.

Much like their furniture, architecture, or toys, the films are at once technically complicated and visually simple. They’re so much fun. Give this mesmerizing snippet a go:

I’ll stop now, since it’s probably better not to even get me started talking about those two. The point is, I love them and I can’t really hide it. My lovely mommy took note of this fact and gifted accordingly when my birthday rolled around a couple months ago. So guess who owns the Eames films box-set? ME, that’s who. Who’s up for a screening party? I make amazing hors d’oeuvres and you can utilize as many “party enhancers” as you’re comfy with, I ain’t here to judge.

And as if that weren’t supercool enough, my loving parents just went and outdid themselves.

The Hang-It-All, designed in 1953, is just one of those things. There aren’t many objects in the world that I consider pleasantly ubiquitous, but that’s sort of how I feel about the Hang-It-All. It’s popular for good reason, like gangster rap or bacon. So I kind of love seeing it everywhere, in all its equal-parts-beautiful-and-quirky glory. For guests it bids a warm, inviting welcome; and after a long day of classes last week, when temperatures dropped down to the mid-it’s-fucking-colds, it was the best place I’ve ever hung my coat and scarf. I just find it overwhelmingly cheerful, and I think that’s what I like about Charles and Ray, too. They—the designs and the people—just put a smile on my face.

Which is just a roundabout way of saying that stuff really does buy happiness. Maybe not, like, constant and eternal joy, but at least moments. I like that about things.

Note: the closely cropped photo of the Hang-It-All is for your own protection, so as not to ruin any mysterious upcoming posts about other new things in the kitchen. Wider angles coming up soon!


24 Comments

  1. don’t you love when ppl get you things you genuinely love as gifts. so awesome.

    i really enjoyed reading this post. i think when you can appreciate a…famous
    person for who they are and not just what they do/create…it’s kinda cool. i mean…it’s more than just being a ‘fan’ but genuinely interesetd in the type of person they seem to be, things they do, their creative process…i dunno it’s hard to explain but you summed it up pretty well. there are a handful of celebs i feel the same way about….

    & yes – their designs are beyond amazing and iconic and every other adjective i could think to insert here. the fact that their pieces still inspire people today (and causes envy) 50+ years later – speaks to their creative genius i think.

    looking forward to kitchen update pics!

  2. I have a secret crush on Charles and Ray Eames too. How could you not??? I fell inlove with the Hang-It-All the first time I saw it, and knew one day it would have to be mine (it was my first Eames designed purchase), and it’s colourful balls makes me warm and fuzzy inside everytime I see it :)

    I want to know amazing hors d’oeuvres and this screening party. If your hors d’oeuvres are half as good as your writing and your DIY projects, i’m definitly in!

  3. ps: i’m serious about knowing more about the amazing hors d’oeuvres. When you are saying amazing, i’m sure they are nothing but, and mine could use a bit of work.

    • I’m feeling some cooking features coming on! They are decidedly un-fancy, but always crowd pleasers! Or I just have gracious college-aged friends who compliment anything that doesn’t come in a box with microwave cooking instructions :-).

  4. You do have nice parents!
    I totally can understand you. Eames stuff is really fantastic.
    Your post also remined me of my love for Alexander Calder. Not only because his mobiles are fantastic, especially in move (my father and I got scolded by the museum people because we blowed at them very lightly) but also because of this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6jwnu8Izy0
    If you watch that, don’t you have to wish that Calder was your grandfather and would play with you circus all the time while you were small? Or big for that matter.

  5. Oh yes, yes, yes, I want to come, I can make some KICK-ASS tapas!

  6. Ah! Bobst shout out!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I have that box set too. Have you also watched “901: After 45 years of Working”? It’s a film made by their grandson when their office was being disassembled after their deaths. Its amazing.

  8. Anyone who tries to claim that the Eameses were anything other than brilliant innovators and THE masters of friendly design is just itching for a fight, if you ask me.

    Also: I have an Eames-related post coming up later today, and I swear on my ESU that I wasn’t copying you!

    • I’ll look forward to it! Maybe it’ll cover the 543849 paragraphs of text I deleted so that I wouldn’t come off sounding like an insane fanatic. If not, I’ll probably end up writing another one at some point, there’s so much to appreciate! We can just switch on and off with the Eames love.

  9. happy birthday.
    with thanks for a beautiful post:

    Cooks’ Magazine
    Date-Nut Bread
    Makes one 9-inch loaf. Published January 10, 2007.

    As you chop the dates, watch for and remove pits and stems, which seem to adhere persistently even to pitted dates.

    2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus more for dusting pan
    1 cup boiling water
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 cups whole dates (about 9 ounces), pitted and chopped coarse
    1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces), chopped coarse
    2/3 cup buttermilk
    3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted and cooled
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Instructions
    1.1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

    2.2. Stir together water, baking soda, and dates in medium bowl; cover and set aside until dates have softened and water is lukewarm, about 30 minutes.

    3.3. Meanwhile, spread nuts on rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

    4.4. Stir buttermilk and sugar together in medium bowl. Add melted butter and egg; stir until combined. Stir in date mixture until combined. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nuts. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just moistened. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula.

    5.5. Bake until loaf is dark brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool at least 1 hour before serving. (Loaf can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

  10. Have you ever seen the Eames House of Cards? It’s super cool. My grandmother passed a deck from the ’50s down to me.

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/images/uploads/04.25.eames.jpg

    • Of course (I’ve played with yours!)! I totally want a set. I think I read that (I might be wrong) a lot of the images on the cards were taken from the short film “House: After 5 Years of Living,” which is essentially a montage of photographs the Eameses took of details of their famous Case Study house, which reflects a much warmer and “lived in” look the architectural shots used for its unveiling in Arts and Architecture Magazine in 1949.

  11. Have I told you lately that I love you (sung in perfect pitch, of course)? Thanks for the sweet shout outs.

  12. Happy belated Birthday! How funny you and Anna both have Eames posts…it’s like you share a brain..er something. I love when that happens.

  13. I’d so come for that movie-night if I lived a bit closer, you could not have kept me away! You’d stand there in the door thinking – who’s this crazy Swedish person? And it would be me. I’ve been planning to read up on the Eames myself for a while now and you just made me write “book about Charles and Ray” on my list to Santa.

    • Well, maybe Santa will have seen this post from Door Sixteen about just such a thing! It’s definitely on my Christmas (Hanukkah) list!

  14. That was a beautifully written post. Your passion clearly came through in your gorgeous writing. And, as someone who ALSO writes pages and pages and pages of material before realizing how excessive it is (and subsequently deleting half of my material), I could tell (before you mentioned it) that you had done that very thing.

    In other words, great work. I love your blog.

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