Search ‘Alfons Bach’ online and you will find a slew of images featuring modern, tubular steel furniture designed in the 1930s. This is what industrial designer Alfons Bach is most well known for. However, in America in the 1930s and 1940s, the coffee table was an object that progressive designers and manufacturers often used to investigate new and novel forms.[1] Accordingly, this drawing of a coffee table demonstrates that Bach also experimented with wood. And in this case, steam bent wood.

Alfons Bach (1904-1999) emigrated from Germany to New York in 1926. His portfolio of industrial design work includes a radio for Philco, furniture for Lloyd Manufacturing, carpets for Bigelow-Sanford, appliances for General Electric, and the interior of the TWA Constellation. He designed wood and rattan furniture for the Heywood-Wakefield Company and it is here that this drawing of a wood and glass coffee table may fit, although it remains to be seen if it was ever produced.

In the 1930s, Heywood-Wakefield commissioned a number of renowned industrial designers to create modernist furniture for production. Gilbert Rohde, Russel Wright, and Bach embraced the pared-down modernist aesthetic and fashioned it into solid wood pieces for Heywood-Wakefield. Their work featured clean, simple lines and elegant, curved features; their distinctive character due to the manufacturer’s ability to steam bend solid wood.

Heywood-Wakefield worked in collaboration with these designers to produce Streamline Modern; a furniture line that was, the company advertised, “in perfect decorative harmony with quaint and Colonial interiors as well as sophisticated apartment settings.”[2] This description suits Bach’s coffee table to a tee. Both then and now it would aesthetically fit a variety of interiors, offering evidence of the versatility and timelessness of Bach’s modernist design.

Bach’s drawings and papers are in the collections of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.


[1] Judy Attfield, “Design as a Practice of Modernity: A Case for the Study of the Coffee Table in the Mid-century Domestic Interior,” Journal of Material Culture 2, No. 3 (1997): 267-289.

[2] Steven Rouland and Roger W. Rouland, Heywood-Wakefield Modern Furniture: Identification and Value Guide, (Kentucky: Collector Books, 1995), 25.


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