Guest Blogger, Kelly Kilpatrick

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Modern Furniture Design – A Brief History

Near the end of the nineteenth century, many changes were transpiring the world over. Social change, new inventions, and new philosophies helped pave the way for innovations in many different fields, among them furniture design. These new methods would take a while to come to fruition, more specifically in the Bauhaus Schools in Germany during the 1920’s.

Previously, furniture design in the West consisted of using deep, dark woods, extravagant fabrics, and heavy ornamentation in order to suggest longevity, durability, and lineage. These aesthetic values reflected what was revered by a worldview that many people in the West no longer shared.

Traditional furniture design placed emphasis on lineage and durability, which were seen by modernists as antiquated views that reinforced hierarchical values of past monarchies, not the people who actually used the pieces on a daily basis.

Modern furniture design came from the modernist viewpoint that ultimately viewed form and function as nearly synonymous. Integrating Eastern cultures’ used of color, flat planes, and simplistic design to achieve a perfect marriage of form and function was the ideal way to reject the past and move forward into uncharted territory as far as art and design was concerned.

During the 1920’s the Bauhaus School of Architecture and Design moved places and leaders several times, but the students of this revolutionary institution helped to make modern furniture design a lasting testament to the modernist philosophy. At the time, Germany’s new liberal Weimar Republic sought to make a name for itself as a major producer among its more productive peers, England and the United States.

The idea was to merge sleek, modern design and mass production of high-quality products at a price that everyone would be able to afford. Though this goal was not fully met, its intentions inspired generations of designers to move forward with new and innovative designs.

Materials for designing furniture changed during this period of innovation, and included plastics, metal, and formed plywood as mediums for the bold new designs. These materials certainly helped propel both the success of the products, as well as the companies that made said materials.

Modern furniture design lives on in nearly every aspect of our lives, from the simple and functional designs of Eurway and Ikea furnishings, to the African and Asian-inspired minimalism found at Pier One and World Market. Modern furnishings and the ideals behind them have flourished, and they continue to do so.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of art careers. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24@gmail.com

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