A Chair as Architecture: The Eames Child’s Chair
For a very brief time during the late 1940s, Charles & Ray Eames designed a group of children’s furniture. The set included a chair, stool, and table, produced with a new technique – molded plywood.
Evans Products, who was already tasked by the Eames Office to produce molded plywood objects, was grappling with the inevitable transition from wartime production (Leg Splints for the war effort) to peacetime production (home furnishings) and Eames cleverly designed this suite of furniture with that in mind.
Created using a single piece of molded plywood, the Eames Office used their creative architectural and engineering skills to shape the negative spaces of the legs/feet, keeping in mind the structural integrity of the seat to conform to a child’s size and weight.
The children’s furniture came in a variety of kid-friendly colors too (red, blue, green, magenta, and yellow), all aniline-dyed into the Birch wood. True to the Eames Office spirit and creativity – known for their whimsical nature – the chair was equipped with a finger hole cut in the shape of a heart designed for easy moving. This was the first time this romantic symbol was used by Charles & Ray Eames – only later to be seen in several of their graphics, drawings, and most of their personal letters and famous Christmas cards.
Around the same time, interestingly, the Eames Office designed children’s toys such as the Elephant, Frog, Seal, Bear, and Horse. These were never mass-produced and only exist in books; however there are a fortunate few who have seen the original handmade Elephant.
For a brief year (1946-47), the children’s furniture was available for purchase at exclusive Eames-friendly boutiques like Alexander Girard’s store in Michigan and Kitty Weese in Chicago, but very few examples exist today. It is thought that less than 5,000 examples of the furniture suite were produced; however, we here at LAMA have only personally seen one table – we snuck off to London to see the Eames exhibit in 1998 – but we have never seen a chair in green or blue!
In the grand time line of the Eames’ success, this children’s chair design was an important step in what was to come of their low-cost post-war home furnishings as well as a tribute to the clever architectural genius of Charles & Ray Eames and the Eames Office.
To quote Charles Eames,
“Furniture, and especially chairs, interests me because it is a piece of architecture on the human scale…That’s why architects design furniture – so you can design a piece of architecture you can hold in your hands.”
Charles & Ray Eames
Evans Molded Plywood Division designed 1945
Plywood with red analine dye finish
14.5″h x 14.5″w x 11″d
Produced for only one year, approximately 5,000 chairs and stools were made in total.
Estimate $7,000 – 9,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction
The Story of Eames Furniture, Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart, Gestalten, 2010, pg 352-360
Eames Design: The Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, John Neuhart, Marilyn Neuhart, Ray Eames, Abrams, 1985, pg 55
100 Quotes by Charles Eames, Carla Hartman, Eames Office, 2007, Pg 106