The Red Coffee Table

As long as anyone in my family can remember, that round red table was there. Buried under magazines and newspapers, pizza boxes, giant bowls of popcorn, and the bare feet of many Michigan summers, it lived in quiet repose.

None of us knew it was an Eames table then, and my siblings, perhaps blinded by the table’s familiarity, still don’t understand the “big deal.” When clearing out my parents’ home of almost 60 years, I very nearly left it for the estate sale, but that familiarity stopped me. It had always been there.

I currently live in a home in California built in 1907. What was I going to do with a mid-century modern red table when I live in an arts and crafts English cottage?

The table’s lightness insured its continuation in my life. Being my mother’s daughter, I am sure that is what saved its life in my childhood home. My mother, a pragmatic mid-westerner, kept that table not because she had an astute aesthetic, but because it was easy to move in order to vacuum under.

Its lightness is what made me decide to keep it and ship it home as well.

It wasn’t until it arrived at my new house that I started to research it and that I realized it was an early authentic Eames table. The provenance is the handwritten “CTW/428” underneath, the fingerprints from someone’s school clay project, and the written initials of the boy down the street. This table is from anywhere between 1946 to 1958—when CTWs were first made, and when we moved into my childhood home near Detroit. [Editor’s note: The Eames CTW is still available from the original manufacturer, Herman Miller.]

My father had lived there a while with his brothers; perhaps one of my uncles left the table there. It has been in our home for so long that even my father, who was still living at the time, couldn’t remember where it had come from.

Being a product of not only graceful design but also the latest in mid-century technology for lightweight, durable furniture, my Eames table fits beautifully in my 1907 living room. With one hand, I can fling it up on the couch to vacuum and it still continues its life being covered in the objects of my day-to-day living.

As with many mysteries in our world, the thing that we see the most is the thing we stop seeing after a while. It was lucky that the day before that estate sale, I stood back and took a look at my childhood long enough to see the table there. Now it is traveling with me in California, a serendipitous nod to the life of Ray and Charles Eames.

By Jane Flury

Share Your Eames Story with us. What is your personal connection to the work of Charles and Ray Eames? Do you own any of their designs? Have Charles and Ray’s philosophies impacted your life and work? Maybe you even worked with the Eameses and would like to tell us about your experience. 

Share your story and photos today via our contact form, or by writing to [email protected].