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Jules Wabbes - Round table

The end-grain wenge table top gives this round table, which rests on a gunmetal hexagonal base, a characteristic look. The wood is cut perpendicular to the direction of the wood ray, a cut that is particularly robust and hardy. Wenge is a wood that lends itself well to the use of the end-grain technique. This solid, stable hardwood has a varied brown-dark colour that produces a striking abstract design. It is sanded and polished, but not varnished.

Jules Wabbes started experimenting with end-grain wood in the late 1950s. His first designs to use the technique were three tables made for the classroom at the 1960 Milan Triennale. This round table was designed about five years later and produced by Mobilier Universel.

Jules Jean Sylvain Wabbes left school at 16 to apprentice himself to photographer Stone and later Alban. His real passion however, was browsing the flea markets in Brussels, where he found odd objects that seemed to interest no one else. Eventually, Wabbes opened his own shop at the Chaussée de Charleroi in Brussels, together with Louise Carrey, the wife of the abstract painter Georges Carrey.

He developed an interest in simple functional furniture, especially laboratory furniture, architect's equipment, and collector's cabinets. As these pieces were often in need of repair or restoration, Wabbes started a small workshop where he learned to work different types of wood and studied several techniques for the assembling of furniture.

Around 1950, Jules Wabbes started designing his own furniture, creating several interiors. A few years later Wabbes, together with the architect André Jacqmain, established a company for industrial design. The collaboration with Jacqmain became a turning point in his career when they obtained the commission for the now demolished Foncolin building (Fonds colonial des Invalidités) in Brussels, at the corner of the Handelstraat and Montoyerstraat.

This prestigious assignment led to many others. In order to keep up with the surge of orders, Wabbes started his own production company Mobilier Universel in 1957, facilitating the large-scale production of office furniture.

That same year he was awarded a silver medal at the Milan Triennale, one of the most prestigious international design fairs in the world. He won again at the 1960 Triennale, this time a gold and silver medal for his innovative school furniture. Though this achievement did not go unnoticed, the furniture would never be used in Belgian schools, due to its ground-breaking nature and the high costs of production.
Wabbes continued to decorate office spaces and private homes in the 1960s. From 1971 onward, he becomes a teacher of interior and furniture design at the Sint-Lucas School in Brussels. He met a lot of the artists and architects that he admired e.g. Georges Carrey, Willia Menzel, Serge Vandercam, Pierre Alechinsky, Bram Bogaert, Corneille, Philippe Johnson, Edward J. Wormley and Raymond Loewy. Loewy always encouraged and stimulated Wabbes and even contributed to some of his creations.

In 1974, at the end of his life, he declared in a late interview with Michelle Feiner: "The creation is an invention that has to be improved, made valuable by perfect technicians. The creation lives a life of its own. I always liked nice things, beautiful things that are well made. I create timeless objects that will resist the test of time."

Jules Wabbes died of cancer in 1974, a mere 54 years old.

- FERRAN-WABBES M., Jules Wabbes, binnenhuisarchitect, Brussels 2002.
- FERRAN-WABBES M., Jules Wabbes, Gent 2010.
- FERRAN-WABBES M., PERSIJN J. & STRAUVEN I., Jules Wabbes. Furniture Designer, Brussels 2012.

Object information

End-grain wenge top and gunmetal base
Date and place:
Belgium, ca. 1961
74 x 178 cm

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