Last Updated on August 14, 2023 by bethrmartin
If you are a mid-century modern architecture or furniture design fan, then Case Study House #8, also known as the Eames House, is probably already on your bucket list.
Located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, the Eames House was designed and built by the husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames in 1949 as their personal residence and studio.
The Eames House tour is an experience that allows you a glimpse into the life of this prolific duo. Whether you want to better understand mid-century design, enjoy a peak at the working spaces, or just looking for a fun afternoon, this reservation is a must.
I live in Charleston, SC, and as soon as I knew I would be in LA in the spring, my main goal was to visit the Eames House. I’ve been on many similar tours since studying Architecture in college and did not realize this would be such a hot commodity!
The overall experience was incredible, and I couldn’t recommend it more, but I have a few tips to make your Eames House trip a little easier.
So let’s go on a mini tour of Charles and Ray’s universe!
Why The Eames House Is So Important
The Eames House, also known as Case Study House #8, is an essential part of architectural history for several reasons:
It was part of the Case Study House Program, a pioneering initiative launched by the magazine Arts & Architecture in 1945 to explore the potential of modern architecture in post-World War II America. Leading architects of the time were commissioned to design and build low-cost, innovative homes that could be easily replicated for the masses.
The Eames House is an essential milestone in the prefabrication and industrial design history. The house is constructed almost entirely from prefabricated materials carefully arranged to create a flexible and adaptable living space.
Their innovative use of materials and technology set a new standard for affordable, efficient, and stylish housing.
Things To Know Before The Eames House Tour
The Eames Foundation has some specific rules about their guided tours, and knowing these things before you book will make your life easier:
1. Getting Reservations Can Be Challenging
The Eames Foundation posts blocks of tickets on specific dates listed on their website, and once these are posted, they sell out fast. Tours are offered on Mondays and Thursdays at 2:30 PM and Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Groups over 10 can book guided tours for a group visit.
Reservations go up for sale at noon PST, costing $30 for adults, $10 for students, and free for children under 7. On the day I purchased it, every ticket was sold out in about 20 minutes.
I highly recommend that you have two dates in mind when booking your tickets. The only day my husband could join me while we were on this trip was on a Friday, and even though I was on the site the second the tickets went on sale, that day never became available.
2. This Is Only An Exterior Tour
The excursion includes a 90-minute guided tour of the Eames House. This only consists of an exterior tour due to the sensitive nature of the historical materials in the house.
You have opportunities to peek your head in open doors for an up-close look, and the home is quite small, but you can’t actually walk around inside.
3. There Is Very Limited Parking
The Eames House is located at the end of a very tight private driveway, and no parking is allowed here. A street called Corona del Mar has free parking and is only about a five-minute walk up a very slight hill.
It’s also effortless to take an Uber or Lyft.
4. There Are Strict Photography Rules
Exterior photographs are allowed, but interior shots are forbidden. Even though the windows, photography is not permitted, and visitors are asked not to take pictures about 20 feet from the house.
Photos for any publication are also prohibited, so I have not included photographs in this post – I’m a rule follower!
5. Masks May Be Required
Depending on your tour guide, masks may be required – even on the exterior tour. They were optional on the day I visited.
Traffic can be unpredictable in LA, so I arrived early and drove around Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica to kill time. The email sent out beforehand made me nervous about parking, but finding a place on Corona del Mar was effortless.
As soon as you check in and walk through the gate, you are hit by what a unique and inspirational place Charles and Ray Eames created. I’ve seen photos of the Eames house a million times, but to see it in person was simply fantastic.
The exterior tour takes you around the entire perimeter of the house, and you also have plenty of free time to walk the site independently. I loved that the whole area smelled like eucalyptus trees and was covered in giant nasturtiums due to California’s magical superbloom. You also get beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean!
One of the craziest facts I learned on this trip is that Ray and Charles Eames purchased this site before they designed any of their iconic pieces or were famous. It’s hard to imagine a time when designers could afford to buy oceanfront property near Santa Monica so early in their careers.
I don’t want to give away too much of the Eames House experience because that’s half the fun of the trip, but be sure to spend plenty of time looking at all the fantastic collections inside the home. Ray and Charles Eames love buying and trading for different folk art pieces and other unique furniture works, and I could have spent hours gazing into their life.
Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and I only wish I could have thought of more questions to ask at the time. Seeing their workspace was one of my favorite parts because it gave me a little understanding of their daily lives while they were dreaming up their ingenious creations.
It’s also incredible to see the original beat-up and beyond-patinaed Eames lounge chair in the middle of the living space!
The Eames House is an architectural gem not to be missed. It’s a testament to the power of good design and a reminder that simplicity and beauty can coexist in perfect harmony.
I feel so lucky I could get reservations for this tour and participate in this experience.
Yes, I hope that one-day interior tours will be offered, but I also respect that historical materials are susceptible to wear. No matter what, visiting the Eames House, even if just an exterior tour, is entirely worth a trip across the country.
If you are interested in learning more about the lives of Charles and Ray and their overall design perspective, I highly recommend the book Eames: Beautiful Details. The Eameses mostly took the photographs, and it’s packed full of their whimsical designs.
So whether you’re a design enthusiast or appreciate great architecture, an up-close look at the Eames House is a must if you are in Santa Monica or anywhere near Los Angeles.
If you have more questions about the exterior tour (or anything), never hesitate to reach out to me. No question is too small!