The Secret History Of: The Eames Hang It All coat hanger

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The Independent Online

Its brightly coloured lollipop balls grace many a hallway, although they are often obscured by the coats they were created to hold. The Hang It All is a classic set of hooks by those masters of modernist design, Mr and Mrs Eames.

In the mid-1940s Charles and Ray began designing products for children, including their colourful moulded plywood animals – another classic still in production – building blocks, masks and then, in 1953 the Hang It All, designed to encourage children to hang up their belongings. It can be seen in the background in pictures of their own home in Pacific Pallisades, California. The couple had no children together, but Charles had a daughter from his first marriage.

In August last year, Herman Miller – the US furniture company that still makes their work –introduced a limited-edition Hang It All with a black frame and solid walnut balls which, sadly, is available only in the US – although you might be able to arrange shipping to the UK. It is instantly less playful and its seriousness is perhaps not in keeping with the spirit of the original. Joanna Moore, of Vitra, which holds the European licence for Eames, says: "It's a perennially popular piece and while it was designed for children, it appeals as much to adults. The evenly spaced balls allow it to be added to endlessly and it's also very kind to coats as it doesn't leave a point in them."

The hanger was produced using the technology that the couple later developed for their famous wire-based chairs and tables. Design Museum spokesman explained how the couple started their business from the spare room in their rented flat where they installed a homemade moulding machine dubbed the Kazam, after the magician's invocation "Alakazam!", because they fed in wood and glue and out came moulded plywood. Their first product was a plywood leg splint based on Charles's own leg. An order for 5,000 followed from the US Navy and production moved out of the spare room.

In their new workshop, they continued to experiment with chairs, tables and the toy animals. Finally Herman Miller put some of their designs into production. The couple continued to make furniture into the 1970s although it is probably for the 1956 chair and ottoman that they remain most famous. These days the Hang It All is regarded by many as a piece of art in its own right, and it seems a shame that to use it is to hide it.