Eames Desk Unit
Made of perforated steel extrusions with diagonal bracing, the Eames Desk Unit could be configured as low credenzas or high bookshelves. The storage units facilitate open storage, closed storage, and drawers. In addition, buyers could customize the interior arrangement, selecting plywood drawers or doors and perforated metal or enameled Masonite filler panels.
There are two color choices: “Colorful” units with primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, and “Neutral” with beige and grey colors. The wood elements of the storage units and desks are either walnut or birch. The two standard units are forty-eight inches by twenty-four inches wide; both are sixteen inches deep and thirty-two inches high.
There had never been like it in the consumer market. Its closest parallel is industrial shelving, but this was years before the words “High Tech” were bandied about by interior decorators.
True to the Eames philosophy, all of the materials were presented honestly: the extruded steel structure was unadorned and unconcealed. There were optional metal parts: cross wires and sheets of steel drilled with holes. A type of thin plywood door that Charles and Ray had first developed in 1946 for their original case goods was available. These plywood sliding doors were molded with circular indentations, which gave them a cared-for appearance and increased the wood’s durability and resistance to warping.
Of all of the Eames designs, they provide the most obvious example of the benefits of standardized parts. The same parts could be used to make several different kinds of storage units, and the cost savings for the manufacture meant lower prices to the consumer. The storage units and the desks were sold to consumers fully assembled, in configurations ordained by Charles and Ray Eames.
The desks came in two different widths, 44” and 60 inches. The desks were originally available as standalone designs, or with returns, for typewriters. The tops are flat expanses of plywood, with the characteristic “radius edge” of many Eames designs. The radius edge is a thoughtful touch, appreciated by anyone who has bumped their hip into a sharp right-angle desk or tabletop.