Nesting Tables: A ‘Fitting’ Example of Beauty with Functionality

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There are very few furniture designs that combine simplicity, elegance, convenience and versatility. One such example are the nesting tables: they are space-saving, they can be used flexibly as tables to hold food and drinks or even as stools for small children, they can be placed as a stylish statement piece or moved around into new positions, they even make for wonderful outdoor furniture.

Nesting tables (or nest of tables) have been around for a long time. Conceptualised as early as 18th century (and chronicled by the British cabinetmaker Thomas Sheraton in his book ‘The Cabinet Dictionary’ in 1803, labelled 'quartetto'), the modern-day nesting tables are a product of a ground-breaking design movement in early 1900s in Germany: the Bauhaus Movement.

Bauhaus—literally ‘construction house’ but more appropriately ‘school of design’—relates to the German school of design which was established in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, with the idea to combine the teaching of arts with the study of crafts and to ‘level the distinction between the fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing’.

Influenced by 19th and early-20th-century artistic movements such as the Arts and Crafts movement, Constructivism and Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus ideology was a step away from the traditional styles of 19th century and was rooted in beauty, simplicity, rationality and functional utility of design—created for the masses but not mass-produced mechanically or industrially. The aim of design was to create a Gesamtkunstwerk or 'total work of art', where students were taught industrial design, sculpture, architecture, cabinetmaking, metalwork, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics and weaving through workshops, along with training in basics of colour, form and material.

Although the Bauhaus School was closed down under the Nazi regime in 1933, its influence on modern art, architecture and design found widespread acclaim in many parts of the world, especially in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Russia and Israel. The Bauhaus faculty—which included impressive resumes like László Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Marcel Breuer and Josef Albers—along with its students designed some of 20th century's most iconic pieces of furniture.

Which brings us to the Bauhaus Nesting Tables, also called Albers Nesting Tables after their designer Josef Albersprofessor at the Bauhaus and after its closure emigrated to the United States. Albers designed these beautiful tables for the Moellenhof House in Berlin when he was engaged in furniture design during his time at the Bauhaus as artistic director of the furniture workshop. This set of 4 accent tables—graduating in size from large to small—had a solid oak frame and lacquered table tops in green, yellow, orange and blue.

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(Photo credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

A similar design but with rounded steel legs was created by Marcel Breuer (of the Wassily Chair fame).

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(Photo credit: bauhaus100.com)

In her New York Times article 'In Praise of Nesting Tables' Julie Lasky writes:

'Nesting tables are like candidates that keep their promises. They swear faithfully to be compact, unobtrusive and versatile, and — mirabile dictu — they are.'

In the same article Lasky also points out an interesting fact about the European words for ‘furniture’—in the French ‘meuble’ or German ‘Möbel’, derived from the concept of mobility.

Nesting tables (or nest of tables) embody the spirit of simplicity, elegance and functionality of the Bauhaus ideology. This practical set of tables is space-saving when not in use and extremely handy when there’s need for that extra place to keep things—a truly versatile, charming and 'mobile' furniture, don’t you think?

Further reading: https://www.theartstory.org/movement/bauhaus/

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