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About Being a Good Host

A Vitra Anecdote

For Charles and Ray Eames, design and architecture was a serious business, no matter if it was office-related or private, and when it came to food and the way of arranging it, there was no difference.

Being good hosts was always a central element in the Eameses’ life. Within the process of designing a chair, planning an exhibition, having visitors at the Eames Office 901 or guests for dinner in their private home, the Eames House, it was equally a matter of anticipating the needs of their guests.

“The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host, anticipating the needs of his guests.”
Charles Eames

Charles and Ray Eames’s grandchild Lucia Atwood regularly visited her grandparents at home and in the Eames Office 901 and has kindly shared her memories with Vitra. Lucia recalls:

“At the Eames Office 901, lunch was often, at least two times a week, served outside on the small lawn. In the 1970s, Charles and Ray would often serve soup, some sort of sliced chicken breast or fish, a super-fresh green salad with small Japanese cucumber slices, watercress (when available), oil and vinegar.”

“Small flowers would decorate the butter. Fresh bread was always served: often a selection of German rye breads or French bread from the now-closed Boulangerie on Main Street. Coffee, Martinelli’s apple juice. Fresh fruit was usually provided, and favourites included blueberries, raspberries and strawberries – preferably the small alpine ones.

Small, usually crisp cookies, both chocolate-covered or not. Sometimes lunch was a choice of sandwich fixings, with lots of small-sized options such as gherkins, olives and watercress. In the kitchen at 901 were also baked amazing plain Bundt cakes with powdered sugar on top and I seem to remember German gingerbread-ish cookies. Occasionally around holidays, Italian Panettone was served, often a gift from a friend, Annette del Zoppo, who used to work at the office. On other special occasions, ice cream and sorbets from the iconic Wil Wright’s parlour were served, particularly after an evening out.”

“Food was a serious business at the Eames Office. It was a point of honour to find a specialty provider for cheese, breads, croissants, cookies, vegetables or fruits. So when someone was dropping off film or picking up supplies, they would also stop at nearby food shops.”

Each table setting created by Ray Eames was like a freshly painted artwork, often decorated with flowers, colourful dishes, patterned tablecloths and napkins.

Lucia Atwood continues: “Meals with Charles and Ray were always delicious, beautifully presented with floral and herbal touches, and fun! Given Ray's and my love of chocolate, it was often featured for dessert or as a post-dance performance snack – in the shape of cookies, cake or simply as candy.“

In the Eames House – which today is preserved by the Eames Foundation and still stands in its original condition – you can see the cookbook “Viennese Cooking” by O. and A. Hess. The book contains many recipes frequently used by Charles and Ray Eames.

One of them is the recipe of a chocolate cake, Schokoladentorte, which was one of the Eameses’ favourites and was marked with a handwritten note by Ray Eames. The book is part of a greater collage of international possessions that Charles and Ray Eames collected over the years and which represents their deep interest in global cultures.

“Take your pleasure seriously”: the famous quote by Charles and Ray Eames sums up their lifestyle perfectly. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners anticipated the needs of their guests, and there were always many choices among different food groups, so that no matter what your dietary preferences or allergies, there was always something to eat – and nothing, ever, revealed all the hard work and sweat behind the preparations.

Thanks to the Eames Office and family for sharing pictures and warm memories.


Publication date: 3.10.2019
Author: Stine Liv Buur
Images: © Eames Office, LLC