Organic Design Case Goods

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1941 – 1942

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen won First Prize for their Case Goods in the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition, which was organized by Elliot Noyes and held by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1941.

The cabinets are finished on all sides, except for the bottoms, where there are rubber bumper pads to protect the surface of the benches.

In his book, Charles Eames Furniture from the Design Collection (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Arthur Drexler notes: “The entry by Saarinen and Eames comprised a group of cabinets and coffee tables, later supplemented by desk-tables. Like most designers of modern furniture, their solution to the problem of storage called for boxes of uniform dimensions, the interesting innovation being that the boxes were not to support themselves, but were to be carried on separate benches, which could also function as seats [emphasis added].”

The images above show a set of eight vintage examples, some with drawers and some with removable shelves, along with three benches that were exhibited during the Getty Pacific Standard Time show, Collecting Eames: The J.F. Chen Collection


MoMA’s director of design, Elliot Noyes, wrote a brief that explained his reasons for holding the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition: “In the field of home furnishings, there has been no outstanding design developments in recent years. A new way of living is developing, however, and this requires a fresh approach to the design problems and a new expression. An adequate solution, which takes into consideration the present social, economic, technical and esthetic trends is largely lacking.”

Noyes went on to explain that designers were working at a disadvantage, because, “They have no opportunity to form contacts with industry which would enable them to have their designs produced.”

With that in mind, prior to the competition, Noyes found manufacturers who agreed to produce the prize-winning designs, as well as retailers to sell them. Red Lion briefly made the Case Goods in Honduras Mahogany veneer, but production was short lived. World War II began less than a year after the winners were announced, and plywood, a major component of the Case Goods, became a necessary resource for the war effort.

Please see the book An Eames Primer for a detailed account of the designs and outcomes of the competition, which resulted in Eames and Saarinen winning the Case Goods category as well was the Chairs category.

The Organic Design Case Goods were manufactured by the Red Lion Table Company. The design is not currently in production.

Historic Documents

  • Eames-Saarinen Entry Panel for MOMA Organic Design Competition Case Goods

  • Eames-Saarinen Entry Panel for MOMA Organic Design Competition Case Goods