In 1950, Charles and Ray Eames introduced the Eames Wire Base Low Table. The tiny table took industrial design principles that would have typically been used to build high-strength, low-weight structures. In particular, methods used to build airplanes. Bracing struts and wire frames were extensively used in early aircraft manufacturing; the Eameses were always looking for new ways to produce furniture, which fit the bill. Soon, the low-slung compact table was in production—offered in various finishes, from premium wood veneer to plastic laminates—and found itself in homes across the globe.
The appeal of a tiny Eames table lies in its lightweight flexibility. They are small, agile, durable, and can be used in various ways. Throw one next to your bed or couch, and you have a low side table. Sit on it, and it becomes a stool. Put a leafy plant on top, and you’ll find it makes a slick-looking plant stand. The more adventurous will group them together to create a coffee table or stack them vertically into makeshift shelving. For a table that the Eameses used to conduct chanoyu, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the design bloomed far beyond entertaining hosts with a hot beverage.
The very next year came the Eames Elliptical Table, a long (89 inches compared to its predecessor's 15) and still-low-profile coffee table with a subtly beveled edge. It quickly earned the nickname "the surfboard table" for obvious reasons. But the Elliptical Table is considerably more dramatic; it doesn't plug into any household in the way a Wire Base Low Table does. Plus, you can't move a seven-foot table with the same ease. In a New York Times article from 2010, on the danger coffee tables pose to young children, a professor of industrial design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn praised the Eames table as a safer option. The article pokes at the design's small stature, too: "When a table this tiny steps out of line, you can send it to the linen closet for a time out."
Now, the tiny tables pack a punchy price. It starts at $250 and can go up to $400 depending on the materials and finish. (Like any other famous design, some replicas can be bought for half the price.) But you'd be hard-pressed to find a more versatile piece of furniture. A quick scroll of #eameswirebasetable on Instagram reveals just how adaptable they can be within everyday life. When it comes to tiny tables, you'll find none mightier than this one.