Beginning in the late 1900's, furniture that has been inspired by modernism has been referred to as modern furniture. This new design of furniture has far surpassed pre-existing designs. Succeeding furniture with brilliant simplicity and glittering metals has surpassed the look of vibrant patterns, gilded and dark wooden structures. Styles which were loud have since been replaced with more uncomplicated designs.
Initially furniture was developed to act more like an ornament rather than a functional item. The great detail and lengthy creation of the piece would in turn reflect the value of the item as well as the demand. New ideals were implemented in the early 20th century where focus we repositioned on to functionality and access. Tradition and linage was the main feel of the design by most western designers. The modern movement brought the feel of new looks and feels based more with present and future times.
There were a number of influences' with modern furniture design. More innovative and technical methods and materials where just a few of the ideas that came from the Werkbund and Bauhaus Schools, this was thought to be due to the influence of the exotic foreign nature perhaps from Art Nouveau, as well, obviously from the intense open mindedness and creativity of the designers themselves.
Many of these new designs were inspired from the use of more modern materials such as plywood, plastics and steel. Charles and Ray Eames also used these new materials and it has been said that they paved the way for more designers to follow the new movement by constructing with these materials. The use of these new materials would have been almost shocking at the time, a never before taken path. The new interest in working with more innovative materials helped to spark the curiosity of other designers and consumers alike, a welcomed blend of both art and discipline. A new working philosophy was born and adopted by the members of the Deutscher Werkbund. The werkbund was a great promoter of German design and art all over the world as a government funded organization. A few names involved were Mies van Der Rohe, Lilly Reich among others who later became involved at the Bauhaus School, thus is most likely the reason that the philosophy followed with them to the school. It was then founded that the materials could be produced in mass and hence allows for quicker construction, faster production and in turn better accessibility to the public.
African and Asian culture
With the pioneering of new materials and creativity of these few Europeans really began to challenge the old way of thinking and designing. This could also be attributed to the newly gained access to Asian and African design. Japanese design provided a legendary influence once isolationist policy relaxed and trades began from east and west. The pieces that emerged offered a brilliant combination of simplicity and solid colors offset by very selective patterns. Europeans developed a taste for all designs Japanese. Many feel this was a very direct influence for the western Art Nouveau movement.
Modern design cannot refer to all piece created since this time period as an ample amount of pieces developed today are intended to be replications of traditional items. You will find between the two styles of traditional and modern sits comfortable the style of transitional design. Transitional design aims to combine the two styles of modern and traditional in a very eye pleasing and yet functional manner. Most often you will see a strong blend of Greek and Asian styles combined to create a brilliantly unique feel.
Modern to contemporary
The designers and manufacturers of contemporary furniture are constantly evolving their design, creating new ideas and styles to set them apart. Ever seeking new easily produced materials from which to implement the lasting style of simplicity and uniqueness, contemporary designers work is never ending. Creating a new visual encounter to keep the masses interested, the contemporary style is ever evolving.
Iconic Pieces of Modern Furniture
There are a number of truly iconic furniture pieces that deserve mention.
- The 1925-26 design of the Wassily Chair, also known as the Model B3 chair is said to be one of the utmost iconic works.
- The Eileen Gray side table design of 1927 for her sister's stay in guest room in E-1027 was a brilliant example of a non-conformant style.
- The Bauhaus design movement is often represented by the Barcelona chair, designed in 1929 by Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich.
- The Noguchi coffee table designed by Isamu Noguchi in the 1900's married simplicity and uniqueness harmoniously.
Marcel Breuer 19021981
As a designer of not only furniture but also architecture Breuer found success in many forms and was talented enough to do so. Born in Hungary, Breuer is often referred to as a master of modernism. In his later career he tried his hand and succeeded greatly in the creation and design of experimental furniture. He brought much attention to the use of tubular steel and wood for the development of new and innovative furniture design. Most notably is his creation and design of Wassily Chair of 1925-26. The design of the chair was revolutionary as it brought together the use of tubular steel and canvas in a way that was never seen before. Interestingly enough, this 1925-26 design can be compared to current designs available at your local IKEA store. This is a great example of a timeless style that still impresses today.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 18861969
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is another modernism pioneer. Mies strived to create a style of design that could represent the current times and be memorable enough to last and inspire future designers. His brilliant 20th century designs boasted of simplicity. Mies worked very hard to ensure his designs were excellent representations of the times and kept the modern feel alive with technology and new age materials. Although his pieces portrayed an obvious feel of simplicity, do not let that fool you, attention to even the smallest details were not overlooked.
Using industrial techniques Mies designed his furniture pieces that soon became instant classics. Mies had an amazing talent for combining modern chrome and leather to create an enchanting abstract style. This can be seen best in his design of the Barcelona chair of 1929 that he designed exclusively for the German Pavilion. The classic design originated from collaboration with his partner and companion Lily Reich. His chair design went on to inspire future designers and is still as beautiful and timeless today.
Eileen Gray 18781976
Eileen Gray makes the very short list of pioneering modern movement masters. Many have said he father, a painter truly helped to nourish his daughter's artistic side from the start. During her childhood her father would often take her on painting tours of Switzerland and Italy. In 1898 she became a student of Slade School of Fine Art, where she learned to fine tune her painting skills and truly began to blossom as an artist. Eileen always tried to create multi-purpose pieces, just as she did with her home which was her living and working area combined.
One of her more famous piece is the E1027 table. The table is really a brilliant piece of art. Featuring a structure of tubular chrome and a glass top the table could fit nicely in a display with current designs and pass easily as one of them. She really had a futuristic artistic ability about her and this shines through in her designs. The table was built in a way that it could be used as a bedside table or as a breakfast in bed table. Eileen really was far ahead of her time, of this there is no doubt.
Le Corbusier 18871965 (born Charles Edouard Jeanneret)
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, or as he is better known, Le Corbusier became very well known as a pioneering influence in the modern movement. Le Corbusier made it his mission to help provide a better living situation for people living in over crowded cities. With a brilliant career more than five decades long he excelled in many fields such as a building constrictor, an urban planner, painter, sculptor, writer, and last but most certainly not least a modern furniture designer. In 1928 Le Corbusier began working with experimental furniture design.
His iconic designs of the LC-3; better known as the great comfort sofa, large model and the LC-4 also better known as the "Long chair", English: "chaise lounge" were widely embraced and enjoyed by the masses. The LC-3 was instantly loved by the media and was featured in a variety of places; the most memorable of which is the Maxell "blown away" advertisement. His pieces were so soundly built that they themselves have outlived their creator. His furniture has been tried to be replicated, but true brilliance and craftsmanship can never be reproduced to their complete and full stature of beauty.
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