Designer Furniture

If you research back through years of design trends, every era will have had its share of high end items of furniture. These pieces came to represent the era they were made in, in terms of both materials and design, and some of the best furniture makers and designers played their part in design history too. While items like Louis XV style walnut beds, have been consigned to the antiques market, the late 19th century onwards has produced a new breed of furniture designs.

The changes were quite dramatic, shifting from dark woods, and elaborate fabrics, to geometric designs, and simple, functional pieces of furniture. In short, an item of furniture used to be treated as an ornament, but is now seen more as a widely accessible item with a purpose/function.

Furniture produced post 19th century, right up to the present day has less in common with traditions and history than its earlier cousins, with the designers seeking to make use of four key things. New materials, new technology and new manufacturing methods are constantly embraced, as are more exotic influences.

Some new designs were made using various forms of steel, moulded plywood, commonly used by Charles and Ray Eames, and plastics which are often used today for items such as children’s furniture, stools, and garden furniture. Several famous organisations became involved in promoting art and design, and applying this to furniture production, including the Bauhaus School, and the Deutscher Werkbund organisation. The involvement of organisations such as this, helped introduce mass production to the furniture market.

When trading with the west picked up in the late 19th century, Asian design showed up throughout Europe, creating many striking designs. Simplistic styles and contrasting uses of patterns were said to be the forerunner of the Art Noveau movement. This movement was characterised by the designs of Charles Rennie MacIntosh, Eileen Grey, and Frank Lloyd, who were noted for combining Western and Japanese design. This is known as transitional furniture design, where a piece combines elements of both traditional and modern furniture trends.

Fast forward to the present day, and some iconic late 19th/early 20th century furniture designs have sparked a trend in classic reproductions. Popular items include the Barcelona Chair from German Architect Ludwig Miles Van Der Rohe, and the Charles Eames Lounge Chair, created in 1956 by influential designer Charles Eames.

As furniture design has evolved, new manufacturers, designers and retailers have joined the fray. Notable names include Arne Jackson who specialised in organic shapes and molded plywood, and Alvar Aalto, who shaped his furniture around the human form. Present day names include The Conran Shop, Leigh Harmer Furniture, Mac and Mac, and Heals. There are also retailers like Barker and Stonehouse which stock furniture brands such as De Sede, Kartell, Porada, Skovby and Vi-Spring.

All of this amounts to a rich history in furniture design, a current mix of styles, designs, materials and patterns, and as for the future, who knows what that will hold as technology and imagination continue to collide and evolve in the years to come.