Long, narrow side tables like the B 10 are ideal for when you need to quickly put down an object – and find it again. They are also a decorative eye catcher in homes and offices. Today, their straight-lined aesthetics look familiar to us. Their inventor, Marcel Breuer, fought against overloaded and over-decorated living styles – still ubiquitous around 1920 – with his elegant, reduced tubular steel furniture. After initial experiments with tubular steel, a new material at the time, Marcel Breuer developed a series of small tables, including the long, narrow side table B 10. At the same time, he was working on an innovative chair design. With its strength and flexing properties, cold-bent tubular steel made such constructions possible. The first furniture made of tubular steel had legs and skids but did not yet make use of the flexing properties of tubular steel. Starting in 1928, Breuer began building prototypes of the cantilever chairs that we all know today. Mart Stam provided the prototype for them with his cantilever chair consisting of ten pieces of tubular steel of equal length and pipe fittings connecting them, which, at first, was rigid and inflexible. Breuer’s designs are considered milestones in the history of modern furniture. Recognising the potential of tubular steel furniture early on, Thonet collaborated with the avant-garde designers and became the world’s biggest producer of tubular steel furniture in the 1930s.
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Marcel Breuer was born in 1902 in Pécs, Hungary. He started an art degree but chose instead to study at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar from 1920 to 1924. Breuer took over the management of the joiner’s workshop at the Bauhaus from 1925 to 1928, which had meanwhile moved to Dessau. During this time, he was strongly influenced by constructivism and De Stijl and developed a few trend-setting tubular steel furniture designs. In 1928 Breuer moved to Berlin and dedicated himself mainly to the field of interior design. In 1931 he travelled extensively before starting work on several aluminium furniture designs in Switzerland in 1932. Breuer moved to London in 1935, where he worked as an architect. In 1937 he was granted a professorship for architecture at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he later opened an architectural office together with Walter Gropius. Breuer opened his own studio in New York in 1946 and realized numerous designs in Europe and the United States. He is considered one of the most important architects and designers of modernism. Marcel Breuer died on 1 July 1981 in New York.