Timeless Good Design
Black-and-white photo of Marga Barr seated and reading a book at a tubular steel dining table. 1930
The collection
Dining table with four chairs. The table has a black Formica top and continuous bent-tubular-steel legs. The cantilevered chairs are also made of continuous tubes of steel with black-upholstered cushions.
Designed by
Donald Deskey (1894-1989)
Chromium-plated tubular steel, plastic laminate, upholstery
Produced by
Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Company, Ionia, Michigan
Table: 71.8 x 152.5 x 76.2 cm; Chairs: 81.4 x 40.6 x 54.4 cm (each)

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Liliane and David M. Stewart Collection, gift of Victoria Barr from the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr Jr., D88.139.1–5*

Alfred Barr bought this dining table and four chairs around 1931 for the East 52nd Street apartment. This set was purchased from the Park Avenue showroom of the Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Company, a Michigan manufacturer of rattan furniture.

The novelty is that American designer Donald Deskey persuaded Ypsilanti Reed to use its equipment for bending tubes of steel instead of tubes of rattan. Barr had seen this furniture style created by architects Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe on his visits to Germany.

Later, mass-produced tubular-steel furniture quickly rose in popularity with the public in the 1930s and 1940s, as it was inexpensive, modern, durable, and easy to maintain. It is still popular today, from common kitchen furniture to top-of-the-line pieces made by Knoll.