Lucia Eames dies at 83; artist saved father’s and stepmother’s legacy
Lucia Eames was a designer in her own right, but for the last 25 years she worked to preserve the legacy of one of the most celebrated design teams of the modern era: her father, Charles Eames, and stepmother, Ray Eames.
In particular, Lucia Eames ensured that their famed Pacific Palisades house — considered one of the pinnacles of modern residential design — remained as a monument not only to the couple’s sense of architecture and design, but also to the way they approached their work.
“I grew up thinking this is natural,” Eames said in a 2000 Los Angeles Times interview of the adventurous, exacting manner in which they created furniture, textile designs, films, toys and a whole house. “It’s only later that one realizes that those uplifting currents are missing in so many people’s lives. And that’s part of our mission, to make it available so other people can embrace it.”
Lucia Eames, 83, died April 1 in a hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., not far from her home in Petaluma. She suffered a stroke a few days before her death, said her son, Eames Demetrios.
The Eames House, made of glass, steel, cement panels and other prefabricated materials, was created as part of the Case Study House program begun in the 1940s to develop affordable, modern home designs. Charles and Ray moved in on Christmas Eve 1949 and lived there the rest of their lives.
Charles died in 1978, followed by Ray 10 years later to the day. The two-story home, situated in a meadow with a view of the ocean, could have fetched millions if it had been put on the market. But Lucia Eames, who inherited it, formed a foundation and gave the house to it. “It was the purest way to save the house for future generations,” said Demetrios, who is chairman of the foundation’s board.
In 2011, more than 1,800 large and small objects from just the living room of the house were loaned to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for its California Design exhibit, which featured a re-creation of the 17-foot-tall room.
Lucia Eames also owned some vintage pieces that she lent to exhibitions of Charles’ and Ray’s work.
She was born Oct. 11, 1930, in St. Louis to Charles Eames and his first wife, Catherine Woermann. After her parents divorced in 1941, Lucia Eames usually spent the school year with her mother in St. Louis and her summers with Charles and Ray Eames in California.
She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1952, but because she was busy raising a family with her first husband, Byron Atwood, she didn’t formally begin her career as a designer until the early 1960s, Demetrios said. Her works, often made of steel or bronze, had patterns cut out of them to depict geometrical designs or objects in nature. The larger pieces were sometimes in the form of benches, chairs or gates.
Probably her best-known work is “Wind Harp,” a 92-foot-tall steel tower, created in 1967 with her second husband, Aristides Demetrios. The tower, still standing in South San Francisco, is topped by a large Aeolian harp, also in steel, that gives off a humming sound as wind rushes through it.
Both of her marriages ended in divorce. Besides her son Eames, she is survived by son Byron Atwood; daughters Carla Hartman, Lucia Atwood and Llisa Demetrios; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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