What This Eames Coat Rack Says About Modern Collecting
So much stuff we love now is influenced by what we liked as kids — that also goes for this collectible coat rack.
So much of what informs this weird, collective culture we’re into today is the stuff we couldn’t own as kids. Whether it’s the sneakers our parents never bought us, high-end collectible versions of toys we used to own, that thin line between nostalgia and hype that makes Medicom BE@RBRICKS still somehow sought after, and now of course, the recently minted trading card explosion.
This past weekend, eight HIDDEN.RSRCH subscribers were lucky enough to win this custom Eames Hang-It-All coat rack. There are less than 10 in existence, so it’s certainly an ultra-rare treat for the winners, but it’s also one of the ways I plan to continually surprise subscribers. What’s ironic about this seemingly grown-up collectible is that it too began as a children’s item.
Starting in the mid-1940s, lauded designers Charles and Ray Eames turned their talents to toy designs and furniture pieces with future aesthetes in mind. Among them are the Eames Elephant and yes, the Hang-It-All coat rack, originally made in 1953 for Tigrett Enterprises’ Playhouse Division.
The Eames’ felt no need to water down their designs for kids, nor did they think it would be an easier task. They merely wanted to create objects that they could pass down to their own children, grandchildren, and the children of their friends. In that way, their willingness to not underestimate the intelligence or capability of kids to appreciate good design speaks volumes about their view on the generations that would succeed them.
The brightly colored wooden balls of the Hang-It-All recall spherical pool balls and Atomic Age molecular imagery alike. But the purpose of the eye-catching colors was to encourage kids to hang up all their things.
The spidery base required some manufacturing ingenuity, the Eameses used the mass-welding techniques they originally developed for their wire-base tables and wire chairs to achieve the desired effect. The distance between the balls is also calculated so that multiple racks can be mounted alongside one another seamlessly.
In 2012, the Hang-It-All was featured in the MoMA exhibit Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000. It brought together various ways in which school architecture, playgrounds, clothing, games, and toys have helped enrich and contribute to various ideas of childhood.
The original Eames Hang-It-All was in production from 1953-1959 at Tigrett Enterprises. In the 1990s, the Eames Office gave the license to Vitra and Herman Miller, who have since introduced several new iterations, collaborations, materials, and colors that speak to the coat rack’s more mature audience.
Other versions ranging from the original colorful version to ones with walnut accents or celebrating Pride month in the colors of the LGBQT community are currently available on Herman Miller for $295. But minimalists who prefer an all-white or all-black colorway actually can cop one for $195.
For additional RSRCH, check out the below Q&A with Charles Eames from 1972, originally part of The Films of Charles & Ray Eames.