Venesta Plywood Company

Stool. 1933-39. (ST707)
Manufactured Luterma, Tallinn, Estonia.
Retailed by Isokon Furniture Company, London
Bent birch plywood, iron foot plates and screws

This “prime object” of modern design history is underappreciated by collectors and curators. It was originally designed circa 1930 by the Estonian company Luterma, a pioneer in plywood technology. Their English export division was known as Venesta, and Jack Pritchard was their English representative starting in 1925. The stool was first imported by Pritchard in 1933 and retailed as Model no. 1 by his fledgling firm known as Isokon.

Studying the history of these stools over the years has brought me much joy. After Isokon began producing original designs in plywood by Marcel Breuer and others, Walter Gropius was hired as a consultant. His major contribution to the firm was a modernist modification of the stool in 1936, in which he straightened the classical shape of the stool’s cut-outs and seat. It remains incredibly difficult to discern the differences in shape between the original model and the Gropius modification, but the present example, which is in superb original condition, would appear to be the original design. Both versions of the Isokon stool are illustrated in period photographs of the “Isobar” designed in 1937 by Breuer in the Lawn Road Flats, Hampstead.

Examples of the original version of the stool are in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and the University of East Anglia Collection. An example of the Gropius modification is in the collection of LACMA.


14.25" L x 12.5" W x 18" H / 36.2cm L x 31.8cm W x 45.7cm H