Design Classic: Eames Elephant

This children's chair is the perfect example of Charles and Ray Eames' fun side.

Designers: Charles and Ray Eames, 1945.

Details: Dyed-through polypropylene elephant chairs in ice grey and dark lime, £158 each, Vitra.

As two of the most influential designers of the 20th century, it’s hard to imagine Charles and Ray Eames ever toying with an idea… Yet this superbly realised children’s chair is one of the couple’s most famous pieces.

During the Forties, trained architect Charles and his designer wife Ray had started experimenting with moulded plywood products.

Dyed-through polypropylene elephant chairs in ice grey and dark lime, £158 each, Vitra

The technique was created from strips of wood veneers bonded with resin glue and moulded through pressurised heat. Initial uses included pilots’ seats and stretchers for the armed forces. But the Eames kept refining the technique which, with a sense of fun that ran through their illustrious careers, eventually led to the elegant curves of this kids’ chair.

Two prototypes were displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1946, but the piece never went into mass production. Thankfully, that all changed in 2007, when Vitra, in celebration of Charles’s centennial, produced a limited run of plywood chairs. These were soon followed by a plastic version which has become a favourite in nurseries the world over.

You don’t need to be under five to enjoy its elegant lines – a scaled-down model is available as part of Vitra’s miniatures collection. Unfortunately, they’ve yet to make a  jumbo size for us, how should we put it, well-proportioned types…

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