The Wassily chair is a chair designed by Marcel Breuer in the 1920s. Breuer was working in the famous Bauhaus school in Germany at the time, and was allegedly inspired by the design of a bicycle to create the Wassily chair. The spare, modernist design has become quite iconic, and several manufacturers around the world produce Wassily chairs or replicas. In addition to featuring a very distinctive design, the chair also utilized some revolutionary building materials which made it a historical innovation.
The original Wassily chair was made from tubular steel bent to create a framework, and canvas strips which created the back, seat, and armrest. The shape and style are evocative of a club chair, but the Wassily chair has been distilled down to simple, clean lines, rather than the traditionally overstuffed club chair. Tubular steel continues to be used in the production of these chairs, with manufacturers often using leather instead of canvas.
The use of tubular steel in the design was only made possible by recent refinements in steel manufacturing which allowed for the creation of seamless tubular steel which could be bent into the appropriate shape. Breuer's logical leap from wood framework to steel framework laid the groundwork for the widespread use of steel in furniture manufacturing. Tubular steel chairs may not seem terribly remarkable today, but in the 1920s, they were a striking development in furniture production.
The chair is named for Wassily Kadinsky, an alleged fan of the chair who was also working at the Bauhaus at the time. The name appears to have been invented by a furniture manufacturer who wanted to capitalize on the connection between Breuer and Kadinsky, appealing to potential buyers by suggesting that they were purchasing an important part of history. Breuer himself called it the Model B3 chair.
Several examples of the chair are on display in museums of modern art around the world. People interested in decorating with these chairs can purchase replicas of varying levels of quality. Most manufacturers are willing to customize the color of the canvas or leather used in the chair to mesh with an interior design scheme, and many have made coordinating furniture accessories such as couches and tables. In addition to being interesting to look at, the design of the Wassily chair is also quite comfortable, making it a functional furniture piece as well as a point of aesthetic interest in a design scheme.