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Bauhaus Furniture History and Characteristics

Jane has an interest in style, architecture, art, fashion, film, and all things vintage.

Tubular steel chairs, designed by Marcel Breuer, 1928

Tubular steel chairs, designed by Marcel Breuer, 1928

The Bauhaus Studio

Mention Bauhaus to a contemporary designer, and chances are a devotional glow will sweep gently across their expression. Bauhaus is to design what the wheel is to technology. Perhaps I exaggerate... but not much.

The Bauhaus was an avant-garde design studio that operated in Germany between 1919 and 1933. Founded by architect Walter Gropius, the school incorporated art, architecture, and in particular, distinctive furniture that would become known as Bauhaus style.

These early designers were revolutionary in their experimental designs, which had a simplicity, harmonious geometry, and industrial-like practicality; the idea was that high design should be cheap enough to be utilized by the masses. Mass production was the aim, and the school's slogan and its core raison d'etre became Art into Industry.

The style had a tremendous impact on 20th-century furniture design and beyond. Even in the 21st century its influence is still strong among contemporary architects and designers, and Bauhaus furniture reproductions continue to be manufactured in many parts of the world.

Bauhaus is everywhere in modern design; it's hard to look at a piece of Ikea furniture, for example, without noting how much the clean, simple lines are reminiscent of the Bauhaus style, and indeed Ikea design strategist Mats Nilson has made a point of saying that his company’s ideology is inspired by the Bauhaus Studio.

Classic Bauhaus Chairs

Classic Bauhaus Chairs

Bauhaus Style and Design

Although classic Bauhaus colours tended to be neutral—most often chromium, black and white, brown, and grey; occasionally bright, primary colours would be used, such as in the tubular chairs above and the baby cradle below. Unlike traditional cabinet makers, the Bauhaus designers were prepared to experiment with innovative materials—commonly, their furniture included combinations of steel, wood, leather, plywood, and woven textiles.

Design-wise, the studio artists turned away from anything overly fussy and pretentious—they wanted clean, modern lines uncluttered by stylistic affectations. The school was greatly influenced by Modernism, which had begun in the 1880s as a rejection of tradition and of many of the values it encompassed.

They virtually reinvented furniture design and produced functional, clean-lined shapes that seemed impossibly modern. The idea was to break a chair down to its most minimal form, and indeed Marcel Breuer predicted that eventually, the chair would disappear altogether:

"Breuer theorized that eventually, chairs would become obsolete, replaced by supportive columns or air. Inspired by the extruded steel tubes of his bicycle, he experimented with metal furniture, ultimately creating lightweight, mass-producible metal chairs."
- Alexander Griffith Winton

Source: The Bauhaus, 1919–1933 | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Who Were the Bauhaus Designers?

Bauhaus was based on a medieval-style guild system of training under the tutelage of masters, and many of the Bauhaus teachers were groundbreaking, modernist artists and designers, such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Marcel Breue.

According to the Bauhaus philosophy, the crafts were equal to the traditional arts, and crafted objects were not to be demeaned simply because they were functional. On the contrary, when art and function meet, art takes on an extra significance as it becomes interwoven with living.

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Walter Gropier had an idealistic vision of "unity in all the arts." It would be a "utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression." (Proclamation of the Bauhaus, 1919). Gropier believed art could be integrated with technology and industrialisation to create a new way of life.

Bauhaus students came from all strata of society, and after they were taught the school's philosophy, they would be separated into specialist workshops, one of the most popular of which was cabinet-making, under the direction of Marcel Breuer from 1924 to 1928.

Together with the metalworking workshop, these two were instrumental in developing design prototypes for mass production. Significant figures in the metal workshop included Wilhelm Wagenfel, Marianne Brandt, and Christian Dell.

With the disruption of the Second World War, many of the Bauhaus tutors travelled to Britain and America, where they continued to influence new generations of designers.

Restored Bauhaus building in Dessau. Image by Curt Gardner

Restored Bauhaus building in Dessau. Image by Curt Gardner

Bauhuas Cradle, designed in 1922

Bauhuas Cradle, designed in 1922

Functional and Funky

The ultra-modern, colourful baby cradle above was designed by German artist Peter Keler in 1922. Modern reproductions are still available for a mere $3,000 or so.

It's hard to believe this cradle was designed almost 90 years ago, as it seems as fresh and modern as anything you would find in a contemporary design studio.

Bauhaus Studio Closure

In 1933, the Bauhaus doors were closed due to pressure from the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany, who considered them decadent and subversive. What had been a vibrant, creative and innovative school of design came to an end in the Bauhaus building; however, the school's philosophy continued through its tutors and the subsequent generations who were influenced by them. The Bauhaus style lives on in just about every modern piece of furniture, from chairs to doorknobs... to lamps and a plethora of other familiar objects.

The Bauhaus crew

The Bauhaus crew


Metropolitan Museum of art: The Bauhaus, 1919–1933: timeline

Bauhaus Online:

The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation:


roob on March 15, 2016:

cool style that seems to have stranded the test of time!(: retro & modern

Futamarka on March 23, 2013:

Теплодепиляционные шиньоны. Утепление парика. Сформировавшийся сегодня рынок завивочных шиньонов неизбежно ставит потребителя перед непростым выбором наиболее подходящего геля из представленного множества. Что ж, давайте попробуем представить эту массу в более понятном виде и дать ряд практических советов, которые помогут и Вам не "утонуть" в море геля.

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on March 07, 2013:

What a talented lot. Love these fresh simple designs, especially the cradle. Thanks for this informative hub

Plaibifewaf on March 06, 2013:

When i helpful to acquire high on existence but lately I've developed a new level of resistance.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on June 02, 2011:

Adolf had a habit of that! Thanks Gypsy Willow.

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on June 02, 2011:

Thanks for the enlightenment! Love the designs and have seen many of them around. Can't believe Adolf messed them up. I enjoyed the read!

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on May 12, 2011:

Could be, Jane, could be. During the Weimar republic period silent film classics such as Metropolis came out of Germany. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times applies to Germany in this period as it does the time of revolution in France in "A Tale of Two Cities". My view at any rate.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 10, 2011:

Well the painting WAS called "On the Bright Side".I haven't read "I am a Camera" but I do know Cabaret was based on it. Great title.

I can't pretend to know all that much about the Weimar Republic does seem that it was a very interesting, if problematic period. I did some reading on that Klee painting -someone suggested that the top area represents the Bauhaus as a temple. It's not too clear in that photo but it has the words 'Bauhaus' written across it.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on May 10, 2011:

I see what you mean, Jane. I have been researching this period so I know a fair bit about the Weimar Republic and it was very human like Klee's painting. Not as inhumane as what followed it. In Germany the 1920s was a time of great inflation and greater creativity. If you have read I am a Camera you'd know what I mean. You probably do anyway. I know you like Cabaret.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 09, 2011:

Great for an office RH, I agree..but y'knw I'm thinking animal print WOULD go with Bauhaus!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on May 09, 2011:

Yes and I don't think it would match animal print and I have just about every room decked out in that! I might do just one room - like the office. That would be perfect.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 09, 2011:

RH, it's not too late..get clicking on those Amazon links! Haha, kidding...kind of. The Baushaus stuff is great I agree, yet I don't think I'd like a whole house done out in it. That cleanness you mentioned might be bit sterile and aggressively modern/minimalist for me.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 09, 2011:

Rod, yes I noticed that. I'm not sure of the meaning as I just chose it because I liked it and it was from the Bauhaus period, without looking into the background.

Looking at it again, I see a human form, with doors for a face.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on May 08, 2011:

It is funny that we consider that design modern:)

I do think they did a great job of making it look clean - it really does! I've often wished I had decorated in this style. I love it!

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on May 08, 2011:

Jane, I take it the Klee painting you're showing off has something to do with the Weimar Republic since the word Weimar is at the top. The Bright Side indeed. Maybe Klee had his fingers crossed at the time or realized there was something worse on the horizon than a floundering democracy. Yes, color is important to Klee's work. Can't agree with you more on that one.

Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on May 08, 2011:

Hi Rod,

Nice to see you. Yes, they had a big influence on fact I'm sitting on a Bauhaus-like chair at the moment. I'm becoming a bit of a Klee fan myself. I really like his use of colour and the compositions have *personality*.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on May 08, 2011:

Yes, Jane, dear old Adolf was not impressed. Not all the designs were practical or comfortable but they had a striking look about them. Paul Klee as you know is one of my favorite artists from the 1920s.

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