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Design Classics

E1027 Adjustable Table, 1927

Designer: Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray is one of the few women pioneers of early 20th-century design recognized for her own work rather than as a collaborator to a more famous man. The daughter of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, she studied at the famous Slade School of Art in London and then decamped to Paris in 1907, where she lived for most of the next seven decades. Her interest in interior design began with a fascination and study of Japanese lacquer techniques. In 1922 she opened a shop called Galerie Jean Désert – named after a fictitious male owner – from which she sold her own lamps, furniture, lacquered decorative screens and interior design services. Gray died in 1976 at the age of 98.

In the late 1920s, Gray designed a summer house for herself on the Rivera and created this table for the guest bedroom. The story goes that her sister preferred to take breakfast in bed so the table was adjustable as both a coffee and a pull-up bedside table. Like her contemporaries Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer, Gray was fascinated by the possibilities of tubular steel as a symbol of streamlined machine aesthetics and its suitability for mass production. She called the table E1027, an anagram referring to herself and her collaborator, the Romanian architect Jean Badovici. The E stands for Eileen, 10 is for the letter J(ean), 2 is for B(adovici) and 7 is for G(ray).

While much of Gray’s designs were one-offs that used rare and opulent materials, this table was put into production during Gray’s lifetime. The intelligent way that the round top reflects the round base, the simple pin mechanism for adjusting the height and the doubled vertical supports are all skilfully thought out and project a sense of stylish modernity. Gray’s philosophy was to create unique furniture “suited to our existence, in proportion to our rooms and in accordance with our aspirations and feelings.” The E1027 was added to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in 1976.

National Post, February 9, 2006.