Vintage Wassily Chairs Are Trending Right Now, Here's Where to Find Them
You know these chairs. They're in the homes of your dreams (e.g. En Gold's Steffanie Ball, artist Prudence Caroline). They're in your saved folder, and on the accounts of all the best vintage sellers on Instagram, "SOLD" already in the caption by the time they hit your feed. They're Marcel Breuer Wassily Chairs and, like Caprani Lamps, they're one of the most influential designs of the 20th century.
Wide-set with bent tubular steel and fabric pulled taught, the Wassily Chair is an icon of the Bauhaus design movement, whose primary objective was to marry aesthetics with function. Its creator was modernist architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer, the Hungarian-born pioneer also responsible for the famous Cesca Chair.
For the now iconic Wassily design, Breuer was inspired by the handle of his bicycle and wanted to make a chair out of steel without any welding, something that had never been done before for mass market production. He secretly enlisted a German steel manufacturer to perfect the process of making seamless steel tubing and it worked. The design was released in 1925 by Thonet, but flopped. Decades later in 1962, Italian manufacturer Gavina re-released the design, updating its waxed cotton fabric with leather and its name from the Model B3 to the Wassily—named for Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, who it was discovered had expressed his admiration for Breuer's original design during their time together at the Bauhaus school.
"It is the least artistic, the most logical, the least 'cosy' and the most mechanical," said Breuer of the design, which shows just how influential it remains today, considering our preoccupation with maximum cosiness at all times (see: chubby furniture).
If you're fantasising about adding a Wassily Chair to your furniture collection, here are three approaches you can take to help make your dreams a reality.
1. Feeling lucky?
In the words of Billy Zane in the motion picture movie Titanic, a real man makes his own luck. If you hope to happen upon an affordable vintage Wassily, increase your chances by setting alerts across all online marketplaces with every relevant keyword. Turn your phone notifications on and make sure you're ready to pounce. Perhaps someone in your extended family is sitting on a real Wassily without realising it—reconnect with them on Facebook and start putting in some groundwork. And, as always, follow some of the more trend-focussed vintage sellers who might be looking to unload a second hand Wassily for a reasonable price.
2. The real deal
If you're in a position to spend some serious cash on a brand new Wassily, they currently retail at Knoll for around four thousand Australian dollars and ship in just a few weeks. Or, for an authentic antique, readily available at 1stdibs, expect to pay up to six thousand AUD for a pre-Gavina model and around three thousand for one of the Italian editions.
3. Take a shortcut
If your budget and/or impatience prohibits you from acquiring a real Wassily, consider a more affordable replica. Though the name is trademarked by Knoll, the design patents are expired, meaning there are some decent (and less decent) copies that will do the trick.