Replicated and ripped off a thousand times over because of it’s innovative and masterful use of design, Marcel Breuer created the world’s first Tubular Steel Chair. While at the Bauhaus Marcel Breuer had a unique philosophy about furnishings and how they suit people and in 1925 Germany this concept was earth shattering.
“The furnishings, the interior design should be neither a “self-portrait of the architect” nor a way of living, attempting to impose itself on the occupant, forcing him, so to speak into a predetermined pattern. “And so we have furnishings rooms and buildings allowing as much change and as many adaptations and different combinations as possible. The pieces of furniture and even the very wall of a room have ceased to be massive and monumental, apparently immovable, and built for eternity. Instead they are more opened out, or are placed freely in space. They hinder neither the movement of the body nor of the eye. The room is no longer a closed composition, a narrowly defined box, for its dimensions and different elements can be varied in many ways. From that, one may conclude that any object properly and functionally designed should ‘fit’ into any room as does a living object like a flower or a human being.”
The “Wassily” chair as it was later known was manufactured in late 1920s by a company called Thonet under the name Model B3. It was also introduced both as a folding and non folding chair as he intended. Originally Marcel Breuer used weaved material that was later switched to a more durable leather. However in it’s earliest incarnation the Tubular Steel Chair had fabric pulled tight, hidden underneath it were springs, and it was available in white, black as well as a popular wire-mesh fabric. And the Thonet made Model B3 is the most rare version of the Tubular Steel Chair.
For the ‘Wassily’ model the fabric was replaced now with the sturdier black leather and in 1968 the chair’s trademark was bought by Knoll. Now almost 100 years after being made, the patents for these chairs have expired but the trademark is still owned by Knoll. Reproductions are made all over the world by companies who produce it under various different names. But don’t be mistaken.
It is virtually impossible to find an original version of a Marcel Breuer Tubular Steel Chair however a vintage 1968 to late 1970s Knoll version can still be found at a decent price – and you can be certain if it is made by Knoll it is sturdy. Knock-offs of the Wassily chair tend to loosen around the Tubular Steel and frames come apart causing you to weave back and forth in embarrassment. Also the knock-offs made-to-look-leather stretches and sags so is easy to spot.
Keep an eye out for the Knoll version of these chairs they are truly a unique experience to own and a profoundly different experience than most chairs, to sit in.
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