This was a period of prolific 20th Century furniture design work. Designers like Le corbusier and Charlotte Perriand were using tubular steel – the new material of the time to create iconic wonders like the chaise longue, whilst Marcel Breuer was creating his famous Wassily Chair – said to have come up with his bent tubular steel concept for this chair while looking at the handle bars of his bicycle. Browse through the timeline and compare the work of the designers and see how their designs have stood the test of time and can well sit in any living room of a modern home today.
This was a great time for timber furniture, the use of molded plywood and laminated timber creating fantastic organic pieces of modern furniture by Alvar Aalto in the Cantilevered Chair no.
31, the Paimio Chair and the Serving Cart. Cantilevering was popular, Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig Zag chair with it’s simple harsh angular visual aspect but complex in construction and design in comparison to Aalto’s Cantilevered Chair no. 31which was more curveceous and organic in form and made using laminated plywood steam bent. Interesting to compare furniture designers of the same period using similar materials with quite dramatically different outcomes in design.
Things are starting to hot up in the 20th Century Furniture arena during this period between 1940 – 1949 Eero Saarinen addressed the need for comfort with his Womb Chair, engulfing the sitting person and hugging them. The Eameses started making their molded plywood timber furniture a good example of this is the LCM chair it was an easily mass produced low cost item of furniture, and this form of mass production was one of the areas of design that Charles and Ray Eames focused on.
After World War II, the public as a whole looked to warmer and softer furniture, organic forms, warmer products like timber and upholstered chairs. They wanted to be cared for by their furniture, feel comfortable and most of all have some luxury that had long be missing. Designers like the Eameses, Gio Ponti, Harry Bertoia, Arne Jaconsen and Eero Saarinen led the way in the modernist organic style embrassing the new technology that had been advanced during the war to try and make enough quality furniture for the high demand required by the public.
Wow, new things happening with materials during this period. Plastics take the world by storm adding vibrant colors and more fluid shaped forms to be created in furniture. Plastics were like the tubular steel of old, it opened up doorways for new furniture design, lightweight and versatile, designers like Joe Colombo, Vernon Panton and Anna Castelli-Ferreri stormed ahead concepting and manufacturing plastic stacking chairs, beautiful and versatile.
The industrial style or Hi Tech movement developed, not many changes in technology or new materials but a change in thought. The greatest advances were in office furniture and equipment with Olivetti of Italy leading the way. Times were tougher, war and termoil were happening in Vietnam and Northern Ireland, inflation was taking it’s toll. A revival of traditional cabinetmaking in the United States and the United Kingdom appeared.
This period of furniture design continued to focus on the industrial sector. Designs were predominately commissioned for retail shopping, hospitals, restaurants, schools and hotels. The favored materials were metal, perforated metal became popular along with steel reinforcing mesh. There were two distinct styles in this era, a DIY use of prefabricated industrial items and the contrasting kitsh and flamboyant post-modernist style of the Memphis movement.
Designers of this period searched to find greater meaning and purpose for their furniture design. Some strange and unusual forms were explored like the W.W. Stool by Phillipe Starck a fantasy style piece of furniture that makes you question if you can indeed dare to sit on it! The Soft Heart chair by Ron Arad showed how by using polyurethane foam that the choice of shapes and form was limitless! Clever materials, technology and production methods meant that the only limits were the designers imagination.
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