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It took just one-and-a-half days for eight workers to build the frame from 11› tons of steel. The walls were made from prefabricated panels, and the windows were of a type usually used in factories. The staircase was ordered from a marine supplies catalog. The cost? Just $1 per square foot.

That was back in 1949, and the bill didn’t include the labor of the owners, who’d designed the house, or their employees. Even so, $1 was remarkably cheap, especially when compared with the $11.50 it then cost to build a square foot — that’s roughly a tenth of a square meter — of a typical American home. It seems even cheaper if you consider that the end result was occupied by its owner-designers, Charles and Ray Eames, for nearly 40 years. The Eameses went on to become America’s most famous industrial designers, and their new home was to be one of the most influential — and beloved — houses of the 20th century.

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