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The Look for Less: Eames elephant in plastic

July 6, 2010 |  7:14 am

Picnik collage111

L.A. at Home's Look for Less feature usually compares apples and oranges: an original design and its lower-cost counterpart (some might say knockoff). This is more of an apples-to-apples tale about Charles and Ray Eames' 1945 toy elephant.

Created from bent plywood and sized like a small rocking horse, the original design was so intricate that only two prototypes were made. In 2007, to commemorate the centennial of Charles Eames' birth, Vitra manufactured 1,000 pieces in natural maple plywood and another 1,000 in red-dyed plywood. Collectors snapped them up, although the Eames Office in Santa Monica still has one in natural maple available for $2,007. A red plywood elephant can be found at Hive Modern for $2,033.

At those prices, not all Eames fans can buy  limited-edition beasts for their children. That may be the reason why Vitra has released a new version in kid- and weather-friendly polypropylene. The plastic elephant is the same dimensions as the wooden version: 30 inches long, 14 inches wide and a hair under 16.5 inches tall. Made for the under-6 set, it nonetheless can support about 150 pounds. It comes in pink, red and ice-gray, shown above right, as well as dark lime and white for $290.

That's a lot for a toy, but it's a classic design that may hold its value better than a Mr. Potato Head. You can buy the elephant at the Eames Office or through the Eames Office website.

850 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 396-5991

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Vitra, Eames Office