We All Live in a Bauhaus

The ultralight drinking glasses from CB2; a wandlike toilet-bowl brush from Muji; the pedestal Docksta table from Ikea set with woven vinyl Chilewich mats and surrounded by Jasper Morrison Air chairs: What do these elements of the fastidiously up-to-date kitchen have in common? They are the distant (and not so distant) offspring of the Bauhaus, the German school of art, architecture, and design that was open for a mere fourteen years, closed 76 years ago, introduced the word sleek to our design vocabulary, and changed the way we think about daily-use items from cantilevered chairs (good) to piles of old magazines (bad). The Bauhaus was famously clutter-averse, teaching acolytes to discard the unnecessary, champion the streamlined and the utilitarian, and design always with mass production in mind. Two exhibits opening next week make the school’s continuing impact clear. At the Museum of Modern Art, “Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity” (opening November 8) is filled with objects and furniture (as well as painting and architecture) as clean, functional, and striking as anything on the market today, by names that still resonate: Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Josef Albers. Uptown at the Museum of the City of New York, “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future” (opening November 10) surveys the career of the Finnish-American architect, who didn’t actually attend the Bauhaus but channeled its principles for a postwar American public. (We have him at least partly to thank for the modular cubicle and the ergonomic office chair.) “The democratization and Everyman aspiration of design shops, from Ikea to Muji, shows the influence of the Bauhaus,” says Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA and co-curator of “Bauhaus.” “They believed that if you combined modern design and practicality and utility, the public would be converted.” As with, say, the iPhone—very Bauhaus.

1. Like his paintings, Josef Albers’s 1926”27 nesting tables play one vibrant hue against another ($2,100 at MoMA Design Store, 44 W. 53rd St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-767-1050).Photos: Courtesy of the Vendors

3. Each piece of the Juniper wooden utensil set is carved by hand ($18 at Kiosk, 95 Spring St., nr. Broadway; 212-226-8601).

4. Frank Gehry’s 1972 Wiggle chair transforms an everyday material”cardboard”into something spectacular ($985 at the Vitra Store, 29 Ninth Ave., at 13th St; 212-463-5700).

5. In 1923, this table lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Carl Jucker was a rebuke to Edwardian decorative excess ($925 at MoMA Design Store).

6. Josef Hartwig’s 1923 chess set reduces pieces to their elemental shapes ($340 for pieces, $230 for board at MoMA Design Store).

7. Anni Albers designed these Chenille Stripe textiles for Maharam in 1946 ($105 per yard at Moroso, 146 Greene St., nr. Houston St.; 212-334-7222).

8. Kaj Franck’s 1958 Kartio glassware dispensed with handles and stems, letting color serve as the only ornament ($70 at Conran, 407 E. 59th St., at First Ave.; 866-755-9079).

9. Cecilie Manz’s Essay table updates the industrial trestle table in wood (from $5,566 at Suite NY, 625 Madison Ave., nr. 59th St.; 212-421-3300).

10. The 1957 Tulip chair was Eero Saarinen’s solution to the “slum of legs” cluttering our living rooms (from $1,112 at Knoll, 76 Ninth Ave., nr. 16th St., eleventh fl.; 212-343-4000).

11. CB2’s Marta glasses do exactly what they need to do (serve drinks) with a minimum of material and expense ($1.50”$2.50 at CB2, 451 Broadway, nr. Grand St.; 212-219-1454).

12. Eero Saarinen’s 1948 Womb chair let sitters assume the fetal position in a fiberglass shell ($3,454 at Knoll).

13. Muji’s take on the humble toilet brush ($11.95 at Muji, 455 Broadway, nr. Grand St.; 212-334-2002).

14. Eva Zeisel”still designing at 102!”created this Classic Century china in 1952 ($69.95 for a five-piece set at Crate and Barrel, 611 Broadway, at Houston St.; 212-780-0004).

We All Live in a Bauhaus