Bryn Mawr's Rhoads Residence Hall, an imposing Gothic structure, was built in 1937 and it was decided that modern furnishings would outfit the dormitory. That same year, Marcel Breuer joined the design faculty at Harvard, following his mentor Walter Gropius, who had become the head of the department. Breuer was commissioned by Bryn Mawr to design the furniture for Rhoads rooms, which included a desk, chair, shelf and mirror. The resulting suite was simple, unaffected and able to withstand the arduous academics of Bryn Mawr.
The designs premiered that following academic year, in October of 1938. While Breuer had been working with cut-plywood and refining the process for the previous decade, the commission from Bryn Mawr (his first in the United States) allowed him to adapt his designs to large-scale production and gained him an early positive review from the elite East Coast design community.