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Auction: Eight “Kleinhans Chairs” by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, 1939

Buffalo is lucky to have been graced by the presence of mid-century modern architect Eliel Saarinen, who designed Kleinhans Music Hall, along with his apprentice son, Eero.

Similar to how Frank Lloyd Wright outfitted his structures with his own custom furniture, the Saarinens were also furniture designers whose creations ended up occupying a number of their own architectural masterpieces. One such masterpiece was Kleinhans.

Unfortunately, the furniture is usually the first thing to disappear, as historic buildings fall out of favor, and then fall by the wayside. If we’re lucky, some of those precious pieces somehow make it back to their original homes, but most are never to be seen again. In those latter cases, the hope is that the records remain, so that we can see and understand the settings as they were intended. Those photos, on occasion, have led to some pieces of furniture being recreated, to stay true to the foundations of the structures.

Just this morning, a reader passed along a link to, where eight “Kleinhans” molded plywood chairs by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen (circa 1939) are now on the market, priced at $42,000.

Developed at the same time as their chairs for the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, these designs are inspired by the work of Alvar Aalto in Finland and are among the first furniture in the United States to utilize molded plywood. The following year, Eames and Saarinen submitted their groundbreaking compound-molded plywood furniture for the Organic Design Competition at the Museum of Modern Art. – Wright.

It might be a long shot that these chairs might someday make their way back to Buffalo… to the internationally heralded music hall, but that doesn’t mean that a guy can’t dream. In the meantime, it would be interesting to learn of their provenance – how they came to leave the building, and where they have journeyed over the years. One thing is for sure – these chairs look like they have been well cared for, which, I suppose, is consoling. At least they didn’t end up in a landfill like all of Wright’s office furniture from the Larkin Administration Building. Unlike numerous other historic Buffalo buildings that were ravaged over the years, Kleinhans made it out relatively unscathed.

To think that Charles Eames had a hand in the design of these ultra-rare, custom made chairs, is absolutely incredible. What a find!

Check out this interesting article that goes more in-depth on the music hall, and its furniture. You can also read up on Kleinhans in this recent Explore Buffalo building profile that sheds an interesting light on the controversial acoustics of the building, which have now been resolved. 

Images courtesy

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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