Little is known about the life of the Hungarian architect and furniture designer Kalman Lengyel. Time and place of birth, for instance, are unknown. Like his companion Marcel Breuer, he presumably belonged to the generation born around the turn of the century.
Proof for his activities in Germany can only be found for a couple of years. He leaves first traces in Berlin in 1927, where he made shop reconstructions as an interior architect. Also in 1927, perhaps even already in late 1926, the founding of the company "Standard Möbel" in Teltowerstraße 47-48 in Berlin took place, which was presumably initiated by Kalman Lengyel, the company became later known as "Standard-Möbel G.m.b.H." and finally under the name "Standard Möbel Lengyel & Co.". Kalman Lengyel started the company together with his fellow countryman Marcel Breuer, in order to promote the tubular furniture that Breuer designed, a decision that would later be reason for the so-called Breuer crisis at the Bauhaus.
The first catalogue of "Standard Möbel" contained, almost exclusively, designs by Marcel Breuer, numbered and marked with a "B". The second catalogue that was made around mid 1928 under the title "Das neue Möbel" (New Furniture), also includes four designs that are marked with a "L" for "Lengyel".
The role of Kalman Lengyel in the company was not restricted to design tasks, moreover, it was also his job to provide the financial basis for the enterprise. His skills in economics, however, seem to have been rather low, as the company was soon in the midst of a financial crisis. In 1928 Anton Lorenz convinced Marcel Breuer - perhaps even with the support of Kalman Lengyel - to cede the rights in his designs, even in those that were already in production, to "Standard Möbel". Breuer responded to his pleas as he wanted to support the company; new designs, however, were now produced by Thonet. Finally Thonet took over "Standard Möbel" in 1929.
Kalman Lengyel started the company "KA-LE-Möbel" a little later. A promotion leaflet from 1929 advertises the products of "KA-LE-Möbel" as "the furniture of a new era, made to fully satisfy the living needs of today's civilized man. This promise seemed to be right: Kalman Lengyel proved to be a very talented designer of tubular furniture, as a room furnishing from 1933 that was obviously influenced by Marcel Breuer, shows. All traces of Kalman Lengyel as a architect in Berlin are lost as of 1933. Nothing is known about his fate during the reign of the National Socialists.
Cf.: Bauhaus-Möbel. Eine Legende wird besichtigt = Bauhaus furniture. A legend reviewed, ex. cat. Bauhaus-Archive Berlin and Bauhaus-Museum Weimar, Berlin 2002.