Jules Wabbes 'Tonneau' Writing or Dining Table in Solid Wengé and Steel
Jules Wabbes, 'Tonneau' dining or writing table, wengé, chrome-plated steel, Belgium, 1960s
The 'Tonneau' model, named after the French word for 'barrel,' embraces a wengé wooden top crafted from rectangular-shaped sawn slats, resulting in a mesmerizing pattern across its surface. The base consists of a chrome-plated steel framework with a minimalist layout. Notably, the construction and joints are intentionally exposed, creating a transparent view of the desk's meticulous craftsmanship. The wengé gives the desk its defining, distinctive look, with its pronounced grains and expressive pattern, breaking the strict lines that characterize the overall appearance. In this design, nothing is concealed—everything is meant to be seen and appreciated.
Jules Wabbes (1919-1974) was a Belgian furniture designer, architect and professor. He wasn't (as many of his contemporaries) trained as a designer or architect but learned the craft of designer furniture by sheer necessity. When Wabbes was 24, he opened an antiques shop where some of the furniture was in need of restoration. Therefore, he opened a small workshop where he taught himself how to restore furniture. Alongside restoration he also started to design furniture. His work is aristocratic and modest, and characterized by a sensual use of materials and a clear, almost architectural tectonics. Wabbes developed a line and idiom of its own, averse to the playful and swinging style of many other furniture designs of the postwar period. Wabbes, influenced by American designers such as Edward Wormley, chose to build his furniture with solid wood giving his designs not only a luxurious appearance but also honest, timeless and sophisticated aesthetics.
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