Design Classics: #39: Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair

Marcell Breuer’s Wassily Chair from

So today’s question is: What is the link between that chair and this bicycle?

an adler bicycle

The answer is that Marcel Breuer was a keen cyclist. He had an Adler bicycle which he particularly admired for its functional design. An apprentice at the Bauhaus school in Germany, he graduated in 1924 and headed for Paris, but returned the following year at the request of Walter Gropius to run the carpentry workshop.

It was during this time that he began to experiment with extruded steel to create a series of metal pieces. But it was his beloved bicycle that would prove his most important inspiration when he decided to use its principles of flexibility and strength to a chair.

image by Liana Walker

The resulting piece was a perfect example of the Bauhaus use of industrial materials and sleek modernism. It was only possible at this time because a German steel manufacturer had perfected the process of making seamless steel tubing. Prior to that, all steel tubing had had a welded seam which collapsed when the tubing was bent.

According to the manufacturer, Knoll, he named the chair the Wassily because it was designed for his friend and room mate, the painter Wassily Kandinsky. However others claim that Kandinsky had merely admired the prototype, known then as the Model B3, whereupon Breuer made him one for his office. Legend has it that a canny manufacturer later named it the Wassily after learning of the connection between the two men.

image from

It was first made with fabric strips, but after the War, the Italian firm Gavina bought the licence and started making the leather version. Knoll later acquired, and still holds, the manufacturing rights.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.