Eames: A strong and lightweight coffee table for your home or office Posted November 24, 2020 by Daniel Ostroff

In 1954, newlyweds Sal and Gladys Valastro, purchased several authentic Eames pieces from Herman Miller for their new home. The first photo you see here is their first son Ken Valastro, born in 1956, enjoying their Eames CTM coffee table. 

Ken and his younger brother James were allowed to spin on the tabletop as long as they were not wearing their button-front pajamas. Mrs. Valastro didn’t want any scratches on the top.

There are several notable aspects of the Valastro Eames CTM. First of all, we took these photos of it when it was in the J.F. Chen Eames Collection, which was exhibited at J.F. Chen, a participating gallery in the Getty Museum’s 2011 Pacific Standard Time city-wide extravaganza.

As you can see, the Valastros bought a red one. Because Charles and Ray were very concerned with years of service and performance, they specified that their plywood tables should be dyed with red aniline dye, rather than coated with an applied finish. That’s because Charles and Ray knew that a dyed finish would last longer and look better, even after decades, than an applied finish, which can chip and wear off.

These photos were taken in 2011. That means, this Eames table still looked good after 56 years. There’s something else remarkable about this Eames table. It weighs only 18 pounds. 18 pounds. That’s a little more than the weight of an average bowling ball.

The Valastro’s lived in six houses in four states during those 56 years.  The table went from house to house with them. And their sons, as long as they weren’t wearing button front pajamas, could spin on the top.

You’ll notice what may appear to be a visual design feature of this Eames table. The CTM, which we still make today, has a shadow line all around the edge because the center of the table is lower, through the process of molding, than the edges. This shadow line is certainly an attractive feature, but it’s not why Charles and Ray molded this top. They made molded-top tables because the molding made the plywood top stronger, more rigid, and resistant to warping.

To help you understand this, consider a piece of corrugated metal, made from a thin sheet of flat metal.  The corrugated sheet of metal has ridgelines throughout, where the metal has been molded or pressed to go up and down. That corrugated metal piece is stronger and more rigid in that form, than it was when it was a flat piece of metal.

This Eames design concept enhances that effect. A piece of corrugated metal is stronger and more rigid in only one direction. Because the round Eames table has a round molded center, it is more rigid and more durable in all directions at once. And it only weighs 18 pounds. And you can easily take it with you if and when you move, even if you move six times in 5o some years.

This Eames table and its mate, the Eames CTW, shown just below, with its molded wood legs, look good, don’t weigh much, and you can spin on either one.

You can learn more about the “Eames-Valastro” story in this little red book you can buy here.