About Jules Wabbes

Jules Wabbes, belgian designer born in Brussels (1919-1974). Appointed “Knight of the order of the crown” in April 1965, in Belgium.

Jules Wabbes was a Belgian designer who gained his reputation in recent years by the quality of the furniture he designed from 50’s to 70’s. He usually signed his furniture J.J. Wabbes.

Life path

Childhood

Jules Jean Sylvain Wabbes was born on March 18th, 1919 in Saint- Gilles (Brussels). He was the son of Henri Justin Gommaire Wabbes, born in Malines in 1874 and died in Londerzeel in 1959, druggist in Brussels. His mother, Rachel Pintens, was born in Londerzeel in 1860 and died in Ixelles in 1946.
Wabbes’s family is from Malines. He was from a middle-class family which was composed of bargees and wood dealers. Jules’s godfather and uncle was Philip Wabbes who was the priest in Saint-Leonard in the Antwerp area, and also an art lover and historian. Jule’s father was a friend of Jacob Smidt, well known art lover at this time.

Education

Jules Wabbes was not really passionate about his studies. From very early on, he started looking around, bargaining at flea markets. He left school at the age of sixteen to be an apprentice to a portrait photographer. In 1937, he opened his own photography workshop at 97 de la chaussée de Charleroi in Brussels, inside his father’s drugstore. He took pictures on racetracks, in clubs and private parties.
In September 1938, Jules Wabbes started his military service in the 3rd regiment of aeronautics. He was mobilized from May 1940 to August 1940. During WWII, he joined les ComédiensRoutiersBelges, a company created from a boy scout group. He became a good friend of Jacques Huisman who created the Theatre National de Belgique after the war and also with Louise Carrey, actress and musician, married to Georges Carrey, the famous French abstract painter.

The beginning

At the end of WWII, Jules Wabbes opened an antique store with Louise Carrey. Jules Wabbes was really talented at finding unwanted objects and giving them a new life and value. Soon, his clients began to ask him for some advice for their interiors.
Jules Wabbes started to decorate interiors with old furniture and homemade furniture made with recovered materials. He then opened a restoration workshop and started to build his own furniture following old crafting techniques. His painter friends encouraged him to create new and modern furniture.

Private Life

Jules Wabbes married Marie Wabbes, an artist and author of childrens’ books. They have four children. In 1965, they settled in a XIX century house in a small village in the Brabant Wallon region. Jules Wabbes slowly decorated this house with the furniture and objects he had collected. Academic Career In 1971, Jules Wabbes started to teach in Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels. He gave courses to architecture students.

Death

Jules Wabbes died from a cancer the 29th of January 1974 at the age of 54.

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Famous productions

Jules Wabbes specialized himself decorating and fitting out commercial buildings. He was also involved in work for private clients and student residences and boats.

50’s

1951

Jules Wabbes created in Brussels at 34 rue de la Pépinière, a design office with an architect, André Jacqmain. Their first works were to outfit and decorate department stores.

1952

Jules Wabbes started to build his first slatted furniture. Looking for a strong material, he chose solid wood which is really hard to craft but really resistant. Wabbes created slatted panels made of wood calibrated mechanically and assembled “at right angle”. They are glued with neither nails nor screws, according to a traditional technique adapted to be used with modern tools (planes and presses). In carpentry, the sliding dovetail joint replaces the swallow tail joint which is mostly used in the construction of top of the range drawers, small boxes or cabinets. Wabbes exploits the decorative qualities of visible joints. Starting from cabinets, he created a whole range of furniture including tables, bookcases and chests.

1954

Jules Wabbes was chosen as industrial designer for Sabena Aircraft Company to fit planes’ cabins. He was in charge of the choice of colours and materials for Convair planes and Douglas DC-6B (and then Douglas DC-7C). Sabena sent him to Santa Monica, California to the Douglas Aircraft Company factories and to San Diego to the Convair factories. The office at 34 rue de la Pépinièrewas involved in an important project: the building of an administrative building, le Fond Colonial des Invalidités (Foncolin). The building, situated at the corner between rue du Commerce and rue Montoyer, was inaugurated in 1959. All the furniture was provided by Jules Wabbes while André Jacqmain, Victor Mulpas and Jacques Boccard supervised the construction.

1955

Wabbes met Philip Johnson in October. Philip Johnson was the theorist and apostle of “Style International”before becoming one of the leaders of post-modernism.

1957

Jules Wabbes was awarded a silver medal at the XIth“Triennale de Milan”for his slatted furniture:a bookcase, the “Gerard Philip” table, desk and lamp. To ensure a better production and a better diffusion of his designs around the world, Jules Wabbes created his own company named “Le Mobilier Universel”.

1959

He decorated the new USA embassy in La Haye built by Marcel Breur. At this time, Jules Wabbes worked for the State Department in Washington. He was in charge of the production of Edward J. Wormley’s furniture in Belgium. This furniture was edited in USA by Dunbar (Berne, Indiana). Then, Wabbes’s furniture was recognized by the Foreign Building Office and he was instructed to carry out the complete installation and decor of the U.S. embassies in Rabat (Morocco) and Dakar (Senegal).


60’s

1960

Jules Wabbes was awarded the gold and silver medals at the XIIth “Triennale de Milan” thanks to his furniture for schools. In Brussels, he designed the interiors of the grand foyer of the National Theater of Belgium (built by Jacques Cuisinier in 1961).

1961

In Brussels, he provided the furniture for the ministry of foreign affairs and for the prime minister’s office. In Munich, he received a diploma during the International Furniture Fair called “Die Wohnung International”. In Port-au-Prince and in Tanger, he provided furniture for USA embassies.

1963

In Brussels, Jules Wabbes was awarded the “premier prix du Bois” in recognition of the quality of his installation of a bar “Drugstore Louise” in “Galerie Louise”.

1963/1964

At Tamise (Belgium), Wabbes worked for the naval constructors J. Boel&Fils. By using exclusively multiplex, he economized considerably on labour costs and facilitated adjustments to the work. He decorated the owner’s salon on the Patignies, couchettes for the car-ferry Reine Fabiola, and a classroom on the training ship of the Cadets Eeklo.

1965

In the Louise district in Brussels, he outfitted a pied-a-terre for a property owner. In Zeebruges, he created interiors for the King and the Queen of Belgium on a boat called Le Godetia in association with shipyard J. Boel&Fils.

1966/1968

At Chaussée de La Hulpe in Brussels, he decorated the headquarters of Glaverbel (known nowadays as AGC Glass Europe). The building was constructed by Renaat Braem, André Jacqmain, Pierre Guillissen and Victor Mulpas.

1968

In Brussels, he arranged the head management’s floor of “Credit Communal de Belgique”.

1969

At Knokke-Le-Zoute (Belgium), Noordhinder, Digue de mer n°821-822, Wabbes worked on a twin villa built by Henry van de Velde (1930-31). He also created his new company “Général Décoration” which produced and distributed lamps and metal-made accessories.


70’s

1970

André Jacqmain was chosen to build the Belgian pavilion at the World’s Fair in 1970 at Osaka, and he naturally asked Wabbes to create the decor for the interiors. He created a large hexagonal ceiling light and the furniture for the restaurant. For the “Royale Belge”, he provided the furniture and also decorated meeting rooms and management offices.

1971/1973

In Brussels, he fitted the newly built building of “Société Générale de Banque” (architects Van Kuyck, Guillissen and Housiaux). Jules Wabbes was chosen as consultant for the interiors and design of new buildings, including the ticket hall, the vaults, the elevator lobbies and all the management floors. The new university of Louvain, just built in Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium), provided many projects for Wabbes. He furbished the science library, built by Jacqmain, and “l’Atelier de Genval”. He also fitted the director’s and chancellor’s offices. He also designed and equipped the student housing, studios and rooms with his furniture. The architects were Fettweiss, Guillissen, Lemaître, Vancoppenolle, Noterman-Coulon, Humblet.

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Bibliography

Dictionnaire international des arts appliqués et du design international de 1880 à nos jours, sous la direction de Arlette BARRE-DESPOND, Paris, Editions du Regard, 1996.
Jules Wabbes, 1919 - 1974. Architecte d’intérieur, par Marie Ferran-Wabbes, Bruxelles, La Renaissance du Livre Dexia, 2002.
Art nouveau & Design. Les Arts Décoratifs de 1830 à l’Expo 58, sous la direction de Claire LEBLANC, Bruxelles, éd. Racine, Musées Royaux d’Arts et d’Histoire, 25 mai 2005 – 31 décembre 2005.
Jules Wabbes, par Marie Ferran- Wabbes, Gand, Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2010. En Français, Anglais et Néerlandais.


References

[1] http://www.bois.com/particuliers/ amenager/tout-amenager/ assemblages-tenon-mortaises/autresassemblages
[2] http://www.boeing.com/history/mdc/dc-6.htm
[3] http://www.boeing.com/history/mdc/dc-7.htm
[4] http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/ htmldocs/RMM07684.html


Sources

Jules Wabbes Source Wikipedia
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