The Powers of 10: Lessons Learned from a Visit to the Eames House

Last week Brad and I had the pleasure of a private tour at the Eames Case Study House #8 in Pacific Palisades. Without any exaggeration, it was one of the singular most inspiring days of my life to date. We had the opportunity to ask loads of questions, hear stories that I had never read about before and soak in some serious design inspiration. Needless to say, I would highly recommend a visit (schedule one here) the next time you're in the area. 

Until that time, here are 10 lessons for design, life and work that were inspired by our visit and the legacy of the Eames: 

  1. It pays to have deep pockets. Ray Eames was very rarely spotted with a handbag, instead choosing clothing that all had incredibly oversized pockets to hold a variety of things. I personally always feel far more free when I don't have to have anything in my hands, and while I'm not ready to give up my handbag collection (just yet), it certainly inspires me to choose more cross-body styles where my hands are free. 
  2. Hospitality matters. Every element of the Eames House was designed around clean right angles, except for the corner sofa. Why, you might ask? So that everyone seated at the sofa had an ocean view. It's all about making your guests feel comfortable and honored. 
  3. Design is iterative. Keep working it until it feels finished, complete and able to stand on its own. 
  4. Talent matters, but hard work matters more. The Eames were famous for citing that they simply worked harder than anyone else, that all the details mattered to them.
  5. There is no task too big or too small. Charles Eames would famously ask those wanting to work at the Eames Office if they could sweep a floor or wrap a package. If the reply was anything along the lines of, "Well, anybody can do that," they would be dismissed immediately. The Eames understood it took a certain attitude and approach to sweep a floor or wrap a package properly. 
  6. In a working office there is little need for titles or hierarchy. The Eames Office functioned without set teams or titles. There would be a problem presented and everyone would work on the problem. Those who contributed stayed and those who did not left.
  7. Design using the materials available to you. This will vary based on location, budget and a whole variety of factors. Innovate only if you must. 
  8. Create products and environments that solve problems. Address the way people live today and you're bound to find a niche in the market. Design is for everyone. 
  9. Embrace colors and collections. It's fine to live with one object, but can you live with a series of the same object? What happens if they multiply? Are they still beautiful, useful, desired? And if not, why not? Think about your design on a larger scale, rather than as individual elements.
  10. Use nature as a shock absorber. The Eames created a midcentury marvel of a home with Case Study House #8. That being said, it would be an entirely different experience if that home were plopped into the middle of a suburban plot or in the middle of an urban streetscape. Nature matters and remains a requisite for recharging.