The Eames house was designed in 1949 by Charles and Ray Eames as the eighth house in the case study house program of the Arts & Architecture magazine. The Eames lived in the home until their deaths; after 1988 the house remained untouched. In 2011, the contents of the living room were reassembled at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for an exhibition. It was at this time that the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) provided investigation and scientific analysis to determine the conservation issues and plans for the house. The 2011-2012 initiative of the Eames House conservation program was to determine the paint stratigraphy of the interior and exterior of the home. This presentation discussed the approach, technology used, sample extraction, and findings for the Eames House investigation.
The study included 15 samples and 6 in-situ investigations from the interior and exterior of the house. In on-site storage, the team located painted plates and several date labeled paint cans that were used for comparison. The team deployed the use of optical microscopy, EDS cross-sectional photo, micrographs, and stratigraphic examination in order to identify the layers of paint present. It was noted that the limited number of samples may not represent all of the paint layers present, for this reason cross-sectional and in-situ excavation were used in conjunction of each other to cross reference findings.
To begin the study, the team identified the known timeline of painting campaigns, for this they relied on historical documentation. The following was known about the house:
- 1949-House built
- 1978-Charles’ death
- 1978-repair campaign
- 1988-Ray’s death
- 1989-painting campaign
- 1994-painting repair
- 2003-painting campaign
- The house & studio show similar paint layers, but the interiors differ
Initial comparison of exterior cross-section and excavation indicate that the two areas have similar stratigraphy. When in comparison, they were able to loosely date the layers to the appropriate painting campaigns. Paint extractions were then separated by paint layers and material composition. The team was able to determine that the earlier paint layers were mixed through subtractive color mixing; this type of mixing technology indicates that great care went into the color mixing and selection process.
Primer layers show that a warm grey was the first layer, with no evidence of dirt between the layers. At this time it was hypothesized that the exterior color was changed to black from 1978-1988. The paint analysis showed a series of gray paints with compositional overlap and two zinc based primer layers. Most samples have two layers below the zinc primer that are the same in composition to the exterior first two layers. Based on these results, it was determined that the first generation warm gray layer exists on the interior and exterior of the house.