Designed and released to the market in 1946, the abbreviated Folding (F) Screen (S) in Wood (W) stood for a range of screen dividers which were part of the plywood home furniture products released post war.
The Eames FSW range was essentially a set of six available 'catalog' models of screens consisting of three overall lengths available in two heights and in a range of finishes. The screens could also be ordered with customized lengths by merely adding plywood sections to its overall length.
The design of the screen was a clever combination of molded plywood panels and a flexible cotton canvas band in between each. The panels were shaped to the same exact form allowing for the screen to ‘collapse’ as well as extend out and stand freely.
Whilst the general demand for screens and dividers may have waned during more recent times, they were certainly in demand during the post war era. Buildings, both domestic and commercial were often compact and with areas of shared purpose space. The FSW screen dividers were an attractive way making the separation for a variety of scenarios.
The FSW, as part of the plywood furniture group, was released alongside famous eames chairs such as the DCM and LCW, and tables including the DTM and DTW. By the mid 1950's the plywood pieces were declining in popularity, largely due to the advent of differing fashions and new materials. The screen was discontinued in 1955 but would re-appear as part of Herman Miller's 'home classics' which started again in 1994.
There was a recurring theme among the designs and production works of the original Eames Office. Customization and interchangeability of parts/sections in order to create numerous choices and options of what was essentially a tweak or styling difference of the same thing. The early plywood chairs demonstrated it, the fiberglass chairs took it to a new level and the Alu Group was still using the basis years later.
The level of interchangeability may very well be less on the Eames FSW dividing screens but the possibility existed none the less. Catalog models of six, eight and ten panel screens could be added to with any number of additional sections. Finishes too were available from the book but the possibility of multi finish screens or customized veneers are seen rarely in the secondary market. So called 'salesman samples' have been found from time to time, showroom pieces with each section a different veneer available to the buying public.
1st Generation FSW
The screens would begin production, marketing and selling in 1946 and were made (as with all plywood pieces at the time) by the Evans Molded Plywood Company from the premises they shared in Los Angeles with the Eames Office. There was essentially two model numbers:
FSW - Folding screen at full height of 5' 8" (172.72 cm)
34-FSW - Folding screen at 34" high (86.36 cm), the 'half height' model .
With the screen outstretched, each panel, including corresponding connecting material, measures 10" making the deciphering of model numbers very easy with the suffix of the number of panels added to the model code.
FSW-6 & 34-FSW-6 = 6 Panel screen measuring 60" (152.4 cm)
FSW-8 & 34-FSW-8 = 8 Panel screen measuring 80" (203.2 cm)
FSW-10 & 34-FSW-10 = 10 Panel screen measuring 100" (254 cm)
The Evans Molded Plywood Company made the screen for nearly three years until Herman Miller took over production after acquiring the rights. Upon launch, Evans made the screen in the following finishes:
Red Aniline Dye
By 1952 and Herman Miller had reduced the available 'book' options down to only three, Birch, Calico Ash and Oak.
This FSW extract is from the 1952 Herman Miller Catalog and details the available specifications of the year.
This mid 2000's Herman Miller Catalog page shows the modern second generation available screen finishes.
2nd Generation FSW
Production of the FSW ended in 1955 but was rekindled with Herman Miller's relaunch of the 'home classics' which started in 1994. As you may expect, there were improvements in manufacturing for this later edition, including a much better material for the flexible panel separators that had been a source of problems for the earlier vintage models. The original cotton canvas used in the vintage pieces would often rot, work their way loose or fray whereas the new polyester material could stand the rigors required.
The passing of the many years since the original vintage screens would see a change in the available finishes for the modern versions. Initially they were offered in Natural Cherry and Walnut and were soon joined by a black (ebony) and a very light Ash. Into the 2010's and Santos Palisander was also added as an option. Only the full height screen was remade.
In 1996 Herman Miller released a limited (numbered) edition of 50th anniversary FSW screens using natural Rosewood which are now highly prized. Use of Rosewood had stopped in 1991 but Herman Miller discovered an existing stock of the veneer within its inventory. 500 pieces of the limited run were produced and each has a numbered plaque to help in identify them.
This is the 1996 50th anniversary edition of the Eames FSW screen in natural Rosewood veneer which will carry the gold limited edition oval plaque.