Back in January we published a post looking at IMM Cologne 1962 and setting that year’s exhibition in the context of what we could all expect at IMM Cologne 2012.
Amongst the material we read and reviewed in preparing the post the page that made the biggest impression on us was an advert for Sesam-Bar by Oeseder Möbel-Industrie: a small corner unit containing a rotating interior compartment with bookshelves on the front and a mini-bar on the back.
The name coming of course from “Open Sesame”: He who knows the secret, receives the treasure!
Sesam-Bar is an object that cries out to be adored.
Quite apart from its truly exquisite form and the fact that the bar section contains insulated holders to help keep pre-chilled bottles cold and has a mirrored rear wall – which makes it look like you’ve got even more booze than you really do – we love the intrinsic social history in the the piece.
Released onto the market in the late 1950s, Sesam-Bar was a response to the increasing number of televisions appearing in private homes in Germany at that time and the need for low, space-saving units on which to place them. In 1956 a version was released with the turntable on the top so that the television could be turned. Then came the ingenious idea to put the turntable inside and so provide space to store bottles for when you invited friends an neighbours round for a drink – for lest we forget, the early 1960s was the start of home entertaining as something everyone did and not the sole preserve of the landed gentry. Inviting the neighbours in for a gin fizz and salted peanut of an evening being the precursor to the dinner parties of the 1970s.
However whereas people drank “hard liquor” in the 1960s, having it on display in your home was still the sole reserve of the wealthy and the arrogant. As a normal working family you wouldn’t have had your schnapps and brandy on public display.
It could send out the wrong impression to visitors, particularly older visitors of a more religious conservative persuasion.
And so most families stored their alcohol in a unit somewhere.
Hiding it in a secret compartment behind books is of course akin to not admitting you have a drinking problem. Or as Simon and Garfunkel so nearly put it “Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes / Put it in your living room corner unit on the revolving shelf behind the books”
And we just adore that. Not least because it beautifully underlines that insecurity we’ve all felt of enjoying ourselves while at the same time feeling that because one is enjoying oneself one must be doing something wrong. Something forbidden.
Then there’s the fact that with all the secret drawers and tricks with mirrors Sesam-Bar by Oeseder Möbel-Industrie is the perfect piece of office furniture for a Jame Bond villain to hide the vodka so that 007 can’t enjoy a sneaky martini.
Regardless of how it was used Sesam-Bar was a product that obviously caught the West German public’s imagination and allegedly sold over 500,000 units.1
Half a million!
We have the figure from the Osnabrücker Zeitung and although that isn’t a publication that we traditionally turn to for designer furniture fact checking, we don’t doubt the colleagues as the number was quoted in relation to a 2007 exhibition in Gütersloh which featured Sesam-Bar.
Again according to the Osnabrücker Zeitung, the rise of the purpose built home entertainment units in the late 60s quickly put paid to Sesam-Bar, plus we can well imagine that on account of the general change in styles and attitudes in the late sixties and early seventies coupled with the rise of colourful, plastic furniture, a classic wood product like Sesam-Bar would rapidly fall out of favour.
Oeseder Möbel-Industrie have certainly long since stopped producing Sesam-Bar and the object has now completely vanished.
Search for images of Sesam-Bar on Google and you’ll be confronted with page after page of seed based snack bars. Something that presumably wasn’t a problem in 1962 when the consumption of sesame seeds was largely reserved for budgies.
And a search for Sesambar, Sesam-Bar or Oeseder Möbel-Industrie on the world’s most popular online auction platform returns: 3-2-1-ZERO, Nothing, Nada!
Half a million sold in little over half a decade: and now Sesam-Bar has vanished without trace.
An absolute travesty.
And a genuine lost furniture design classic.
1. http://www.noz.de/lokales/14167897/einrichtungsklassiker-der-endfuenfziger Accessed 06.08.2012