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Steinberg Meets the Eameses

Minimum Chair Prototype

Office of Charles and Ray Eames


This chair, along with the La Chaise lounge chair and several stamped metal chairs, was part of the Eameses’ prize-winning entry to the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design Competition held by the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. The competition was motivated by the need for affordable furniture in the postwar period, a result of lingering materials shortages paired with high demand for housing and furnishings. One common approach to lowering costs was cutting down on materials, and the Minimum Chair pushed this tactic to the extreme by testing just how little was needed to provide a comfortable seat. The result was this slender design made of two ovular pieces of sheet metal and a metal rod base (another version was made with perforated metal) that weighed only 13 pounds. Though the Minimum Chair was never put into production, this prototype remained at the Eames Office and later appeared in a 1950 photograph of Charles posing with a La Chaise on which Saul Steinberg had drawn a reclining nude woman.

  • Medium:Metal, plywood, paint
  • Dimensions:35 x 16 x 15 in. (88.9 x 40.6 x 38.1 cm)
  • Item:2019.2.221