Named after Eileen Gray’s summer house in Maison en Bord de Mer at Roquebrune Cap Martin, which she built for herself and her collaborator Jean Badovici, the name E1027 is in code. E is for Eileen, 10 for Jean (J is the 10th letter of the alphabet), 2 for B(adovici) and 7 for G(ray).
This simple height adjustable glass and chrome table was originally designed to indulge her sister’s love of eating breakfast in bed and, from such humble beginnings has become a sought after design classic.
According to the Design Museum, Gray was ignored for most of her life and it wasn’t until after her death that she finally gained recognition as one of the most important designers of the 20th century.
A biography of her on the site relates that: “As a woman, Eileen Gray was denied access to the supportive networks from which her male contemporaries benefited. Neither did she have the advantage of working with a powerful male mentor, like most of the other women who made an impact on early 20th century design: such as Charlotte Perriand with Le Corbusier, then Jean Prouvé; Anni Albers with her husband Josef; or Lilly Reich with Mies Van Der Röhe.”
Nor did she study at the same schools as they did, such as the Bauhaus in Germany, or work as an apprentice in a studio like Le Corbusier’s in Paris. Instead, her privileged background – like her gender – left her isolated.
Gray was born in Ireland, the youngest of five children in a wealthy family and she divided her time between there and the family’s other home in Kensington, London. Her father, an artist, allowed her to enrol at the Slade School of Art and she first worked as a lacquer artist.
After WWI Gray decided to concentrate on architecture, encouraged by the Romanian-born architecture critic Jean Badovici and in 1924 they began work on the construction of a house,E-1027, on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean at Roquebrune near Monaco. Gray designed the furniture as well as working with Badovici on its structure. The table and equally well-known Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus.
Ruth Aram, director of Aram Store, Drury Lane, London, WC2, says the E1027 is her favourite piece.
“We stock hundreds of designers but my personal favourite has to be Eileen Gray’s E1027 side table – we’ve had one at home for years, and it just works. The kids use it, I use it, it’s perfect.”